Today the Fui Toong On Association of T&T will be holding its centennial anniversary celebration at the Emperor Garden Restaurant, Long Circular Mall, St James. A lion and fan dance will be performed at the auspicious event and the pipa will be played by a member of the Chinese Embassy. Ushers will be dressed in traditional Hakka clothes and hats.
On previous occasions, the association hosted four former prime ministers—Dr Eric Williams, George Chambers, Patrick Manning, and Basdeo Panday.
In fact, the 50th-anniversary celebration was attended by both the then governor-general Sir Solomon Hochoy and then prime minister Dr Eric Williams.
Members of the association are Hakka Chinese, the China-born hail from Guangdong province, their dialect is also called Hakka, which is different from Cantonese and Mandarin and have their own unique cuisine and traditional dress.
Some of the activities and festivals that members of the association celebrate are the New Year banquet, Mid Autumn Festival and the distribution of mooncakes. In the past members organised excursions, parties, and sporting competitions.
In the old days, weddings were regularly held at the association on Charlotte Street, Port-of-Spain, and children were taught how to read and write Chinese. There is also now a strong Fui Toong On presence in Canada.
It was traditional for Hakka shopkeepers to close their businesses half-day on Thursdays and travel to Port-of-Spain to order their goods from merchants like Camacho's and stop in the association to rest and socialise with their fellow Hakka countrymen.
There are rooms upstairs for members who needed temporary room and board. This association acted as an unofficial embassy for the Chinese immigrants who now made T&T their home and needed help with business activities.
The association was also instrumental in providing scholarships and donating to charities where necessary.
Some of the association's members are lifetime honorary member Governor-General Sir Solomon Hochoy, Eugene Chen, former foreign minister of China in the 1920s. This generation contributed to the development and landscape of T&T by educating their children in different spheres in medicine, culture, politics, law, and the arts.
Other prominent Fui Toong On members include Carlyle Chang, sculptor, painter and designer who designed the flag and coat of arms of T&T; multi-media artist Willi Chen; his physician brothers, Dr Wilfred Chen and Dr Arthur Chen; Fr Sidney Chang; Dr Daniel Chang; Dr Freddy Chang; Dr Gordon Chang; dentist Dr Eddison Chang; Dr Winston Chang; Dr Lyndon Chang; Fredrick Chang; Dr Harold Chang, anesthetist; Janelle Chang-Clark, biomedical research engineer, USA; Jason Chang, automotive technologist, Canada; Dr Warren Lue Chin; Dr Carol Chang-Gardner; Angela Chang, medical technologist; Patricia Chang, accountant; Amoy Chang Fong, former deputy governor of the Central Bank; Judy Chong-Dennison, television producer and director of JCD & Associates; celebrity hairdresser Clem Lue Yat; and photographers Ian Yee and Butch Lim Choy.
Many people do not know that several famous political leaders were also Hakka, such as Deng Xiaoping, leader of the People's Republic of China; former prime minister of Singapore, Lee Kuan Yew and his son and current prime minister Lee Hsien Loong; former prime minister of Thailand, Thaksin Shinawatra, and his younger sister and former prime minister, Yingluck Shinawatra; and former president of the Philippines, Corazon Aquino.
Speaking to Guardian Media on Wednesday, President of the Fui Toong On Association Joe Chan said "Our association is the oldest among the Chinese associations in Trinidad. It was founded in 1919 by Hakka immigrants from Southern China with their heritage and culture deeply rooted in the three counties formerly known as Hui Yeung, Toong Guan and Bao On.
"Now they have grown into large, modern and industrial cities called Fuizhou, Dong Guan and Shenzhen respectively in the province of Guangdong, China.
"So our name comes from Hui Toong On to reflect our ties and roots with our cultural heritage. Hakka people are hard-working people."
He said Hakka was also a different dialect from Cantonese which the other Chinese groups spoke in T&T besides Mandarin.
Chan said even the Cantonese dialect had regional variations because Guangdong was so large and different groups such as Chung Shan, Toy Shan, Sun Wei, and Yanping spoke slightly different Cantonese dialects.
Several prominent members of the community are expected to be in attendance along with Cabinet ministers and the Mayor of Port-of-Spain Joel Martinez along with China's Ambassador to T&T Song Yumin and the heads of the various Chinese Associations.