Collection of Bookmarks from Chinese Middle Schools in the 1950s

This collection consists exclusively of bookmarks from Chung Cheng High School (中正中學) and Chinese High School (華僑中學). The bookmarks are colourful and full of quotes and propagandas, which reflected the sentiments of the Chinese students at that time. These bookmarks are made by the student unions of these two prominent Chinese medium schools, during the mid 1950s (primarily from 1954-1956), which was the height of the Chinese dissent amongst the student community at that time towards the administrations, incensed by post-war anti-colonialism and resentment towards the British, and affected by the leftist/Communist thinkings that was coming out of China at that time.  Tracing the events in this part of Singapore history, there was “The National Service Ordinance” (NSO) which was passed in December 1953, calling for compulsory conscription of eligible male Singaporeans to serve in the army, and the deadline for registration was set on the 12 May 1954.

The NSO angered Chinese middle school students and they resisted with riots that began on the next day on 13 May 1954. The aftermath of the May 13 movement led to the creation of the Singapore Chinese Middle School Students Union (SCMSSU), which were responsible for these propagandistic bookmarks. There were more civil unrest in 1955 with the Hock Lee Bus Riot which were attributed to the Workers Union tied in with the same Communist influences, and in 1956, after Lim Yew Hock took over as Chief Minister of Singapore and started suppressing the Chinese communists, including the dissolving of the SCMSSU. This led the Chinese middle school students to riot again. On 26 October 1956, the police entered the schools to deal with the students, which forced the students to take to the streets. In the ensuing days, many people were injured or killed.

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