Lee Khoon Choy


Lee Khoon Choy (b. 1924, Penang–27 February 2016, Singapore) served as a politician and diplomat for almost three decades.1 Before he retired from public service in 1988, he had held many positions in the government, including member of Parliament (MP) and senior minister of state and had also been ambassador and high commissioner to eight countries. After his retirement, Lee founded Eng Lee Investment Consultants, and sat on the board of several other companies.2 The multilingual Lee was also a musician, writer and painter.3

Early life
Lee was born into a Hakka family in the town of Butterworth in Penang. His father had two wives – the second was his mother – and 15 children.4 He received his primary and secondary education from Yeok Keow Chinese School and then the prestigious Chung Ling High School in Penang.5


After Penang fell to the Japanese in December 1941, he took refuge in his uncle’s farm located in a jungle.6 Towards the end of the Japanese Occupation (1942–45), he learnt Japanese and became a Japanese-language teacher.7 After the Japanese left in 1945, he began teaching at his alma mater, Yeok Keow Chinese School.8

Journalistic career
1946:
Joins the Chinese-language daily Sin Pin Jit Poh in Penang as a reporter.

1947: Transferred to Singapore to work for Sin Pin Jit Poh’s sister paper Sin Chew Jit Poh, also a Chinese-language daily.9
1949: Leaves for England on a year-long scholarship from the Colonial Welfare Fund to study journalism at the Regent Street Polytechnic in London.10
1950: Graduates with a diploma in journalism.11 Returns to Singapore and works for both Sin Chew Jit Poh and its affiliated English-language daily Singapore Standard.
1953: Resigns in protest against the dismissal of his brother-in-law from Sin Chew Jit Poh. Joins Nanyang Siang Pau as its chief reporter.12
1955: Covers the historic Afro-Asian Conference at Bandung, Indonesia.13
1956: Covers the Malayan Merdeka talks in London.14 Founds the Singapore National Union of Journalists with S. Rajaratnam as president and Lee as vice-president.15
1957: Dismissed from Nanyang Siang Pau after asking for the reinstatement of a colleague who had been detained by the government for alleged pro-communist activities, but later found innocent and released. Joins The Straits Times.16
1959: Leaves The Straits Times due to unhappiness with the treatment he received; Lee felt it was an agency dominated by Europeans with no respect for Asian views.17

Political career
1959:
Joins the People’s Action Party (PAP) and becomes the party’s propaganda chief for the Legislative Assembly election. Elected as assemblyman for Bukit Panjang18 and appointed as government whip as well as parliamentary secretary to Ministry of Culture.19

1961: Transferred to Ministry of Education as parliamentary secretary.20
1963: Loses Bukit Panjang seat in the Legislative Assembly election. Appointed as political secretary to the prime minister and deputy organising secretary of PAP.21
1965: Elected as assemblyman for Hong Lim in a Legislative Assembly by-election. Appointed minister of state for culture after Singapore gains independence.22
1968: Retains Hong Lim seat by a walkover in the parliamentary general election; transferred to Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) as minister of state.23
1972: Re-elected as MP for Hong Lim in the general election.24
1974: Promoted to senior minister of state for foreign affairs.25
1976: Elected as MP for Braddell Heights by a walkover in the GE.26
1977: Appointed as deputy chairman of the People’s Association (PA).27
1979: Appointed as senior minister of state in PMO.28
1980: Re-elected as MP for Braddell Heights by a walkover in the GE.29
1984: Retires from politics.30

Diplomatic career
1968–1970:
Ambassador to Egypt, Ethiopia, Yugoslavia and Lebanon, and high commissioner to Pakistan.31

1970–1974: Ambassador to Indonesia. Efforts to thaw the diplomatic chill between the two countries (which had resulted from Singapore's hanging of two Indonesian soldiers involved in the 1965 MacDonald House bombing) climaxed in an official visit by then prime minister Lee Kuan Yew to Indonesia in 1973.32
1984–1988: Ambassador to Japan and South Korea.33
1988: Returns to Singapore and retires from public service.34

Awards and honours
1974:
Bintang Bakti Utama (Meritorious Service Star), Indonesia35

1986: Scholarly Achievement Award, Japan Institute of Oriental Philosophy36
1988: Order of Diplomatic Service Merit, South Korea37
1990: Darjah Utama Bakti Cemerlang (Distinguished Service Order), Singapore38
1997: Honorary member, Chinese National Academy of Social Sciences in Beijing39

Other positions held
Chairman, Sino-American (UIC) Tours Corporation40

Independent director, Metro Holdings and Transmarco41
Non-executive chairman, SSH Corporation (formerly known as Sin Soon Huat)42
Director, L&M Group Investments43
Chairman, Eng Lee Investment Consultants44

Lead independent director and chairman of audit committee, Koh Brothers Group45

Publications
1966: Politics and Life46

1967: National Culture in a Multi-racial Society47
1976: Indonesia: Between Myth and Reality48

1983: An Ambassador’s Journey49
1986: The Personal Odyssey of a Nanyang Chinese: In Search of a Nation50

1986: Collection of Paintings of Lee Khoon Choy51
1988: On the Beat to the Hustings: An Autobiography52
1993: Diplomacy of a Tiny State53
1995: Japan: Between Myth and Reality54
1999: A Fragile Nation: The Indonesian Crisis55
2005: Pioneers of Modern China: Understanding the Inscrutable Chinese56
2007: Passage through China: This Land So Rich in Beauty57
2008: Impressions of the World with my Brush58
2013: Golden Dragon and Purple Phoenix: The Chinese and their Multi-ethnic Descendants in Southeast Asia59

Death
Lee passed away from pneumonia on 27 February 2016 at the age of 92.60

Family61
First wife: Florence Khor Swee Hoon (d. 1959)

Second wife: Eng Ah Siam (m. 1962)
Children and grandchildren: Two sons (by Khor) and five daughters (by Eng), and 11 grandchildren.



Author

Valerie Chew




References
1. The showdown. (2001, June 10). The Straits Times, p. 37. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
2. Leong, W. K. (2001, June 10). Put it in writingThe Straits Times, p. 37; The showdown. (2001, June 10). The Straits Times, p. 37. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
3. Deputy speaker and govt whip appointed. (1959, June 28). The Sunday Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Galeri Art Point. (n.d.). Lee Khoon Choy (Penang): Artist statement. Retrieved 2016, March 8, from Penang Artists website: http://www.penang-artists.com/Lee%20Khoon%20Choy.htm; Leong, W. K. (2001, June 10). Put it in writing. The Straits Times, p. 37; Lee Khoon Choy made director of Metro and Transmarco. (1991, June 22). The Straits Times, p. 48. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
4. Lee, K. C. (1988). On the beat to the hustings: An autobiography. Singapore: Times Books International, p. 5. (Call no.: RSING 320.95957 LEE); Sai, S. M., & Huang, J. (1999). The ‘Chinese-educated’ political vanguards: Ong Pang Boon, Lee Khoon Choy & Jek Yeun Thong. In P. E. Lam & K. Y. L. Tan (Eds.), Lee’s lieutenants: Singapore’s old guard. St Leonards, NSW: Allen & Unwin, pp. 132–168. (Call no.: RSING 320.95957 LEE)
5. Koh, T., et al. (Eds.). (2006). Singapore: The encyclopedia. Singapore: Editions Didier Millet; National Heritage Board, p. 294. (Call no.: RSING 959.57003 SIN-[HIS]); Galeri Art Point. (n.d.). Lee Khoon Choy (Penang): Artist statement. Retrieved 2016, March 8 from Penang Artists website: http://www.penang-artists.com/Lee%20Khoon%20Choy.htm; The showdown. (2001, June 10). The Straits Times, p. 37. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
6. Lee, K. C. (1988). On the beat to the hustings: An autobiography. Singapore: Times Books International, p. 15. (Call no.: RSING 320.95957 LEE)
7. Lee, K. C. (1988). On the beat to the hustings: An autobiography. Singapore: Times Books International, p. 99. (Call no.: RSING 320.95957 LEE)
8. Lee, K. C. (1988). On the beat to the hustings: An autobiography. Singapore: Times Books International, p. 19. (Call no.: RSING 320.95957 LEE)
9. The showdown. (2001, June 10). The Straits Times, p. 37. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
10. Leong, W. K. (2001, June 10). Put it in writingThe Straits Times, p. 37. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
11. Galeri Art Point. (n.d.). Lee Khoon Choy (Penang): Artist statement. Retrieved 2016, March 8 from Penang Artists website: http://www.penang-artists.com/Lee%20Khoon%20Choy.htm
12. Leong, W. K. (2001, June 10). Put it in writing. The Straits Times, p. 37. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
13. Leong, W. K. (2001, June 10). Put it in writing. The Straits Times, p. 37. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
14. Leong, W. K. (2001, June 10). Put it in writing. The Straits Times, p. 37. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
15. Mesenas, C. (2006, March 29). Raja, my dear old friend. Today, p. 8; Deputy speaker and govt whip appointed. (1959, June 28). The Sunday Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
16. Leong, W. K. (2001, June 10). Put it in writing. The Straits Times, p. 37; Mesenas, C. (2006, March 29). Raja, my dear old friend. Today, p. 8. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
17. Leong, W. K. (2001, June 10). Put it in writing. The Straits Times, p. 37. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
18. Leong, W. K. (2001, June 10). Put it in writing. The Straits Times, p. 37. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
19. The showdown. (2001, June 10). The Straits Times, p. 37; Deputy speaker and govt whip appointed. (1959, June 28). The Sunday Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
20. Leong, W. K. (2001, June 10); Put it in writingThe Straits Times, p. 37; Ministry man takes a bride. (1962, December 1). The Straits Times, p. 5. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
21. The showdown. (2001, June 10). The Straits Times, p. 7. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
22. Leong, W. K. (2001, June 10). Put it in writing. The Straits Times, p. 37; The showdown. (2001, June 10). The Straits Times, p. 37. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
23. Government of Singapore. (2015, July 22). 1968 parliamentary election results. Retrieved 2016, March 8 from Elections Department of Singapore website: http://www.eld.gov.sg/elections_past_parliamentary1968.html
24. Government of Singapore. (2015, November 2). 1972 parliamentary election results. Retrieved 2016, March 8 from Elections Department of Singapore website: http://www.eld.gov.sg/elections_past_parliamentary1972.html
25. Au-Yong, R (2016, February 27). Former PAP old guard MP Lee Khoon Choy dies. The Straits Times. Retrieved from Factiva.
26. Government of Singapore. (2015, November 2). 1976 parliamentary election results. Retrieved 2016, March 8 from Elections Department of Singapore website: http://www.eld.gov.sg/elections_past_parliamentary1976.html
27. The showdown. (2001, June 10). The Straits Times, p. 37. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
28. The showdown. (2001, June 10). The Straits Times, p. 37. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
29. Government of Singapore. (2015, July 22). 1980 parliamentary election results. Retrieved 2016, March 8 from Elections Department of Singapore website: http://www.eld.gov.sg/elections_past_parliamentary1980.html
30. The showdown. (2001, June 10). The Straits Times, p. 37. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
31. Lee-Koh, A. M. C. (1981, January 12). Oral history interview with Lee Khoon Choy [Transcript of MP3 recording no. 000022/72/01, p. ii]. Retrieved from National Archives of Singapore website: www.nas.gov.sg/archivesonline
32. Au-Yong, R (2016, February 27). Former PAP old guard MP Lee Khoon Choy dies. The Straits Times. Retrieved from Factiva.
33. Double duties. (1984, July 14). The Straits Times, p. 44. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Galeri Art Point. (n.d.). Lee Khoon Choy (Penang): Artist statement. Retrieved 2016, March 8 from Penang Artists website: http://www.penang-artists.com/Lee%20Khoon%20Choy.htm
34. Leong, W. K. (2001, June 10). Put it in writingThe Straits Times, p. 37. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
35. Lee-Koh, A. M. C. (1981, January 12). Oral history interview with Lee Khoon Choy [Transcript of MP3 recording no. 000022/72/01, p. ii]. Retrieved from National Archives of Singapore website: www.nas.gov.sg/archivesonline
36. Galeri Art Point. (n.d.). Lee Khoon Choy (Penang): Artist statement. Retrieved 2016, March 8 from Penang Artists website: http://www.penang-artists.com/Lee%20Khoon%20Choy.htm
37. Galeri Art Point. (n.d.). Lee Khoon Choy (Penang): Artist statement. Retrieved 2016, March 8 from Penang Artists website: http://www.penang-artists.com/Lee%20Khoon%20Choy.htm
38. National Day Honours List 1990. (1990, August 9). The Straits Times, p. 26. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
39. The showdown. (2001, June 10). The Straits Times, p. 37. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
40. Leong, W. K. (2001, June 10). Put it in writingThe Straits Times, p.37; The showdown. (2001, June 10). The Straits Times, p. 37. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
41. Lee Khoon Choy made director of Metro and Transmarco. (1991, June 22). The Straits Times, p. 48. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
42. Goh, E. Y. (2005, September 29). Directors’ trades. The Straits Times, p. 19. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
43. Tan, A. (2003, June 16). L&M removes exec director. The Business Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
44. The showdown. (2001, June 10). The Straits Times, p. 37. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
45. Divyanathan, R. (1995, February 27). Sin Soon Huat appoints Lee Khoon Choy chairman. The Business Times, p. 19. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
46. Lee, K. C. (1966). Politics and life. Xinjiapo: Renminxingdongdang zhongyang chubanshe. (Call no.: RCLOS 320 LCT)
47. Lee, K.C. (1967). National culture in a multi-racial society. Singapore: Ministry of Culture. (Call no.: RCLOS 959.57 LEE)
48. Lee, K. C. (1976). Indonesia: Between myth and reality. London: Nile & Mackenzie. (Call no.: RCLOS 959.8 LEE-[GH])
49. Lee, K. C. (1983). An ambassador’s journey. Singapore: Times Books International. (Call no.: RSING 327.20924 LEE)
50. Lee, K. C. (1986). The personal odyssey of a Nanyang Chinese: In search of a nation. (Call no.: RCLOS 327.59570092 LEE-[LKH])
51. Lee, K. C. (1986). Li Jiongcai huaji: Shijie guji fengjing [Collection of paintings of Lee Khoon Choy]. Tokyo: Gerdo Takeda. (Call no.: RCLOS 759.95957 LEE)
52. Lee, K. C. (1988). On the beat to the hustings: An autobiography. Singapore: Times Books International. (Call no.: RSING 320.95957 LEE)
53. Lee, K. C. (1993). Diplomacy of a tiny state. Singapore: World Scientific. (Call no.: RSING 327.5957 LEE)
54. Lee, K. C. (1995). Japan: Between myth and reality. Singapore: World Scientific. (Call no.: RSING 390.0952 LEE-[CUS])
55. Lee, K. C. (1999). A fragile nation: The Indonesian crisis. Singapore: World Scientific. (Call no.: RSING 305.8009598 LEE)
56. Lee, K. C. (2005). Pioneers of modern China: Understanding the inscrutable Chinese. Singapore: World Scientific. (Call no.: RSING 951.050922 LEE)
57. Lee, K. C. (2007). Passage through China: This land so rich in beauty. Singapore: China Knowledge Press. (Call no.: RSING 951 LEE)
58. Lee, K. C. (2008). Impressions of the world with my brush. Singapore: China Knowledge Press. (Call no.: RART 759.95957 LEE)
59. Lee, K. C. (2013). Jinlong zifeng: Zai dongnanya de zhongguoren he tamen duoyuanzhongzu houyi [Golden dragon and purple phoenix: The Chinese and their multi-ethnic descendants in Southeast Asia]. (Call no.: RSING 305.8951059 LKC)
60. Au-Yong, R. (2016, February 28). Former PAP old guard Lee Khoon Choy dies at 92. The Straits Times. Retrieved from website: http://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/former-pap-old-guard-lee-khoon-choy-dies-at-92; Former senior minister of state, PAP MP Lee Khoon Choy dies. (2016, February 27). Channel NewsAsia. Retrieved from website: http://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/singapore/former-senior-minister-of/2554380.html
61. Ministry man takes a bride. (1962, December 1). The Straits Times, p. 5; The showdown. (2001, June 10). The Straits Times, p. 37. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.



The information in this article is valid as at 2016 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic. 

Subject
Politicians
Lee Khoon Choy, 1924-
Law and government>>Political process>>Leadership
Politicians--Singapore--Biography
Diplomats--Singapore--Biography
Personalities>>Biographies>>Political Leaders

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