“The British were successful in dealing with the problems created by the Chinese Secret
Societies.” How far do you agree? Explain your answer. (8m)
I agree that the British were successful in dealing with problems created by the Chinese
Secret Societies through various measures and implementations.
The British government were successful in dealing with the problems caused by the
Chinese secret societies with the appointment of Thomas Dunman as its first police
commissioner and taking a concerted effort to improve the capability of the police force.
Thomas Dunman tried to improve the police force by increasing the pay of the policemen
and providing proper training. He also set up the Detective Branch to tackle the activities
of the secret societies and introduced modern crime tracking methods such as
fingerprinting. All these improved the abilities and capabilities of the police force such
that they are more equipped to deal and track down the lawless Chinese secret societies
and serve to deter rampant secret societies activities as the secret societies would be more
wary of their actions and the police force.
The British government also set up the Chinese protectorate and appointed William
Pickering as the first protector of Chinese. The Chinese protectorate controlled the coolie
trade by registering the coolie agents and lodging houses. The officials also visited every
coolie ship that arrived and inspected the coolie houses to ensure they were fairly treated.
This helped to reduce the crime of coolies abuse by the secret societies. More
importantly, the Chinese protectorate offered itself as an avenue for Chinese communities
to settle their disputes peacefully instead of turning to the secret societies. This helped to
weaken the power and recognition of the chinese secret societies and limited their
Although successful at dealing with the problems created by the Chinese secret societies,
it would not be true to say that the problems created by the secret societies were totally
eradicated. Fights continued to break out occasionally and abuses of coolies and women
still existed well into the 20th century. This was because some of the coolies and women
still did not come forward to seek the help of proper channels for fear of secret societies
or simply not trusting the British government. In this case, the British government could
have done better in the complete clampdown of secret societies.
In conclusion, while secret societies and their associated crimes were not eradicated, it
was due to the coordinated efforts of both an improved police force and the Chinese
protectorate that restricted the secret societies influence and activities in Singapore.
Credits would have to be given to the British government in significantly reducing
problems caused by the secret societies and hence I agree they were successful in dealing
with the problems caused by the secret societies.