The 1867 Penang riots

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In 1867 riots erupted in Penang between coalitions of secret societies. A Commission of Inquiry was established with Lieutenant-Governor A.E.H. Anson presiding over nine other Commissioners. In the process, the story of what became known as the Penang Riots slowly unfolded.

FORTY-YEAR-OLD Lieutenant-Governor A.E.H. Anson, a veteran of the Crimean War, had just arrived in Penang to take up the appointment in early June, about two months after Sir Harry Ord from the Corps of Royal Engineers became Governor of the Straits Settlements.

Both understood too little to differentiate between "benevolent" and "secret" societies and left the antagonism between conflicting secret societies unattended. This state of affairs continued to simmer until it reached a boiling point.

The Hokkien-based Kien Tek (also called "Tua Pek Kong") Society was led by Khoo Thean Teik and the Cantonese-based Ghee Hin Society was headed by Lee Kok Yeng (more commonly referred to in history books as Lee Coyn).


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