Clans still relevant: President Tony Tan

SINGAPORE - Singapore President Tony Tan Keng Yam gave a speech on Tueday, Feb 12, at the Singapore Federation of Chinese Clans Associations.

He spoke about the important role that clan associations played in nation-building and their continued relevance today.

Below is his speech in full:

I am happy to be with all of you this morning to celebrate the Singapore Federation of Chinese Clan Associations (SFCCA) - Business China Spring Reception. I would first like to wish everyone a happy Chinese New Year, and a great start to the Year of the Snake.

As we gather with families and friends to celebrate this important festival in Chinese culture, we must remember not to take such traditions for granted. These traditions have been passed down from generation to generation, and it would be a pity to lose them.

As our society evolves to keep pace with globalisation, we need conscious and concerted efforts to preserve our heritage and core values for ourselves and for posterity.

Evolving Roles of Clan Associations

The 200-odd Chinese clan associations in Singapore have played an instrumental role in our nation-building, especially when there were not yet many organised essential public services. At the beginning, clan associations were primarily set up to help immigrants, or xin ke (??),settle down in Singapore.

Many immigrants were assisted by clan associations to secure accommodation and employment, thereby enabling them to gradually becoming rooted to what was once a foreign land.

As immigrants arrived in greater numbers and their needs became more sophisticated, clan associations began to run schools and hospitals. In the pre-war years, clan-based philanthropy became the predominant provider of social services and welfare.

Beyond these key public services, clan associations were also committed to the preservation of Chinese heritage and promotion of Chinese culture.

Our clan associations have displayed the ability to recognise pressing needs of the Chinese community and stay relevant in changing times. In 1986, clan associations reached a new milestone -SFCCA was established to strengthen cooperation among the clan associations.

SFCCA's clan membership has grown from 70 to over 200 members, including some new immigrant associations.

Continued Relevance of Clan Associations

Even though the world today is very different, clan associations still have important roles to play.

As the apex organisation for clan associations, SFCCA in recent years has been actively spearheading efforts to ensure the continued relevance of the Chinese language and culture amongst the Singaporean Chinese community, and help Singaporeans tap on opportunities in China.

It is important that clan associations engage the younger generations, to ensure rejuvenation and continuity of our traditions. I am heartened to know that some clan associations have started youth groups to draw new talent into leadership positions.

Some even have global youth groups that are linked to their respective provinces in China to facilitate social and business networking.

The promotion of Chinese culture and heritage should remain a priority for clan associations. Clan-run schools are well-known for their emphasis on values-based education and character development.

These virtues are deeply rooted in Chinese culture and set a strong foundation for building a gracious society.

We are fortunate to have a rich melting pot of different dialect groups that make up our Chinese community. Each group has its dialect, traditions and even cuisine that are worth preserving and promoting.

I urge clan associations to continue to share such cultural heritage that is integral to our Chinese identity. This will allow our diverse range of locality and kinship clan associationsas well as new immigrant associations to come together to build and sustain a uniquely Singapore Chinese identity.


Clan associations in Singapore have come a long way and endured the challenges of many eras. Since its establishment in 1986, SFCCA has also actively revitalised clan associations. The continued relevance of SFCCA and clan associations would not have been possible without their acumen to evolve with and adapt to the changing needs of society.

I urge SFCCA to continue working hand in hand with clan associations to implement more initiatives to promote our Chinese culture and heritage, and reach out to the community at large.

In closing, I would like to wish everyone a happy and prosperous Year of the Snake.

Thank you.

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