Buzz over launch of new Chinese clan associations

New citizens and permanent residents from China are forming their own clan associations at a pace that has set the local Chinese community abuzz.

Since early last year, at least five such associations, representing newcomers from various provinces, have been registered and launched - almost as many as the six new immigrant groups set up over the past 20 years or so.

And up to 10 other groups have applied to form similar associations, say some group leaders.

The new residents say they are starting their own clubs because they want to stay in touch with people from their hometowns and often find it hard to relate to older members of existing clans.

The new clubs from Zhejiang and Shandong provinces and Long Yan city in Fujian province say they welcome all Singaporeans with ties to these areas, not just those who hail from there.

Former engineer David Li, 47, who launched the Zhejiang (S) Entrepreneurs Association last May, said: "Even those who do business or work there are welcome to join our group."

Singapore has seen a new influx of China nationals since the early 1990s. Observers estimate 200,000 to 500,000 have come to work, study and live here.

The Shandong Association (Singapore) was launched last September. It was started by developer Zuo Haibin, 51, the executive director of the Singapore-based Qingjian International (South Pacific) Group.

Last November, the Long Yan Friendly Association held its inaugural meeting in Chinatown. It is headed by former athletics coach Zhang Zhimin, 48.

Two other groups, the Hefei Association (Singapore) and Guizhou Association (Singapore), have been registered but have yet to be officially launched.

The pace has startled locally born clan and community leaders. Some say it shows integration has been slow and the 300 existing groups have failed to bring newcomers into the fold.

Still, veteran clan leader Kua Bak Lim, 66, is convinced that the new immigrants' children, having grown up here, will integrate more easily into the mainstream Chinese community.

Newcomers, he said, have helped revitalise the local clan scene, largely dominated by leaders in their 60s or older. Set up in 1999, the Tian Fu Club is among the earliest of the new groups. President Tony Du, 58, said members needed a social and business network.

The Shandong Association was set up partly because the province was not represented here, said Mr Zuo, who is a PR.

Long Yan's Mr Zhang, a new citizen, said the generation gap made it hard for those who came in the 1990s to relate to older natives in the associations.

At the Singapore Federation of Chinese Clan Associations, an umbrella body for more than 200 clan groups, secretary-general Patrick Lee, 65, said: "We can't stop them from setting up their own associations. What we can do is invite them to join us and be involved in our activities."

Four of the new groups have joined the federation - the Kowloon Club, Tianjin Club, Shanxi Association and Tian Fu Club.

Older new immigrant groups

The six older associations set up by new Chinese immigrants are:

SHANXI ASSOCIATION: For people from China's north-western province.

Year formed: 2010 Members: 195

TIANJIN CLUB: For people from the northern port city.

Year formed: 2008 Members: 300

HUA YUAN ASSOCIATION: For immigrants from all parts of China.

Year formed: 2001 Members: Above 3,000

CHINESE SCHOLARS AND STUDENTS ASSOCIATION: For students, scholars and researchers studying or working in schools and tertiary institutions here.

Year formed: 2001 Members: No permanent membership

TIAN FU CLUB: Started for entrepreneurs and professionals from Sichuan. Now open to immigrants from other parts of China.

Year formed: 1999 Members: 3,000

KOWLOON CLUB: For immigrants from Hong Kong.

Year formed: 1990 Members: 1,200

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