The Chinese Association (Gauteng)


Many Chinese community organisations have flourished throughout South Africa, but one of the oldest still in existence is The Chinese Association (Gauteng), previously known as the Transvaal Chinese Association. It was formed in 1903 to represent the interests of the approximately 900 Chinese who lived in the province then known as the Transvaal (across the Vaal River).


As an objective to create a more united and stronger community. We have established different divisions within the organisation such as:

  • Business Forum / Crime
  • Chinese Culture (Community Centre & School)
  • TCA Women’s Federation / Social Responsibility
  • Communication & Newsletters
  • Care of the Aged
  • Sports
  • Legal Advice
  • Youth Division
  • Chinese Affairs


The aims and objectives of TCA shall be:

  • To promote, preserve and propagate Chinese Culture, heritage, language and religion within the South African context beginning in the Chinese Community specifically and spreading to the rest of our multi-ethnic people in general.
  • To provide literature about South Africa’s Chinese people pertaining to their existence.
  • To promote and protect the physical, economic, social, intellectual and educational welfare of the Chinese community, in concert with all our fellow South African citizens.
  • To protect all legitimate interests of those of Chinese descent in regard to the above.
  • To promote unity, harmony and goodwill amongst those of Chinese descent in Gauteng and throughout Southern Africa, as we embrace the interests of all other fellow South African citizens.
  • To promote and preserve all ties with similar associations within and beyond the borders of the Republic of South Africa.
  • To promote harmony and goodwill between the Chinese people and members of other countries pursuing the same ideals.
  • To affiliate with recognised Chinese national bodies which have aims similar to those of the TCA.
  • Organise lectures, seminars, discourses and publications with relation to all our activities connected to Cultural, Social, Socio-economic aims in general and Health and Education concerns in particular, especially with regard to the neediest in our general population.
  • Encourage research in the field of education, Socio-economic needs and Health issues.


In its first 10 years TCA objected strenuously to laws introduced by the British government to register and fingerprint all Asiatics.  Chinese collaborated with the Indian community to protest against the law.  Among its many activities, TCA:

  • Sent a representative to London to appeal to the Emperor of China’s ambassador;
  • Wrote a pamphlet calling upon all Chinese to oppose the Asiatic registration law;
  • Held community meetings to petition the authorities and to pledge that the Chinese would go to jail rather than submit to the “unjust law”. *


Image courtesy of Melody Emmett

Chow Kwai For, a 24-year-old man from Hainan who was employed as a domestic servant, did not know of the community’s objections.  He followed his employer’s orders to register before finding out that other Chinese had refused.  Feeling he had unwittingly betrayed the community, he committed suicide in November 1907.  Hailing him as a martyr to the cause, TCA organised a large traditional burial service and erected a tombstone on his grave.  The stone, although vandalised, still stands in the Braamfontein cemetery.

Leaders of the TCA embarked on passive resistance and went to jail with Indian leaders such as Mahatma Gandhi.  The unity in the community did not last long and eventually opposing factions were formed — those who supported passive resistance and those who opposed it.  This led to a split in TCA with different groups coming to blows, even shooting at each other. Newspapers of the time, in 1909, carried colourful descriptions of the fights which broke out in Chinatown, located in Ferreirastown on the western end of Commissioner Street. *


Since its inception, TCA underwent a stop-start existence. It usually took a crisis of some kind to mobilise the community to action.  From 1917 TCA again took the lead in appealing for more rights for Chinese.  It objected to restrictions in the liquor law and assisted Chinese wanting to bring wives and children into the country.

Throughout the 1930s and 1940s TCA appealed for “equal rights” for Chinese.  Discrimination in all areas of life remained a huge obstacle since Chinese were not permitted to own land in the Transvaal, the immigration laws prohibited adult Chinese males from entering the country and segregation was enforced both in business and socially.

TCA was one of the many organisations which formed a national representative body, the Central Chinese Association, in the 1960s to appeal against restrictions imposed by the Group Areas Act and countless discriminatory measures which existed under apartheid. TCA remains an active member of the national representative body for the community, the Chinese Association of South Africa.

From the 1980s TCA became a driving force in this province, hosting large community celebrations and launching a national newsletter to spread word of its activities. It holds biennial elections for TCA executive committee members who are expected to volunteer their services. *

*Extracted from research conducted for the book, Colour, Confusion and Concessions: The history of the Chinese in South Africa, by Melanie Yap and Dianne Leong Man