Lim Chin Siong


Lim Chin Siong (b. 28 February 1933, Singapore–d. 5 February 1996, Singapore1) was an influential trade union leader and a prominent left-wing political figure in Singapore. As a founding member of the People’s Action Party (PAP),2 Lim was elected as the assemblyman for the Bukit Timah constituency during the 1955 Legislative Assembly general election at the young age of 22.3 An intelligent man and a charismatic speaker, Lim was especially popular with the Chinese working class. However, Lim’s leftist stance brought much turbulence to his political career. Marked as one of the key left-wing leaders in the PAP,4 Lim was expelled from the party in 19615 and arrested for political dissent in 1963.6 Upon his release from prison in 1969, Lim left for London to further his studies7 and returned to Singapore in 1979.8

Early Life
Lim was born to a shopkeeper at Telok Ayer Street in Singapore.9 His family subsequently moved to Telok Kerang near Pontian, Johor, in 1936 because of the Great Depression.10 During the Japanese Occupation, the family restarted their provision shop in Kampong Rambah.11 A few years after war, Lim returned to Singapore to resume his studies.12


Education
Lim entered Pei Chun Primary School in Pontian in 1939. He studied there until the school closed in 1942 as a result of the Japanese invasion. Lim resumed his education in 1945, after the Japanese surrendered. In 1949, Lim enrolled at the Catholic High School in Singapore, but transferred to the Chinese High School a year later.13 At the Chinese High School, Lim became involved in the Singapore Students’ Anti-British League (SSABL), an organisation with pro-communist tendencies. Lim later pointed out that he had not been aware of the SSABL’s communist affiliations when he first entered the organisation, stating that he had only viewed it as an anticolonial and anti-British organisation.14


In 1951, Lim and a few others were involved in leading students to boycott the Junior Middle II Examinations, which they felt was hindering the students from pursuing further studies. As a result, Lim was detained in August and again in October by the Special Branch. He was released but was subsequently expelled from school along with several others. Thereafter, Lim worked as a part-time teacher while attending English classes at the Eastaff English School.15

Involvement in trade unions
In 1954, Lim became a paid secretary for the Changi branch of the Singapore Bus Workers’ Union, and subsequently also a secretary of the Spinning Workers’ Union. Shortly after, he was elected secretary-general of the Singapore Factory and Shop Workers’ Union (SFSWU). As one of the leaders of the SFSWU, Lim and his fellow colleagues focused on recruiting more members, addressing the workers’ concerns and taking care of the workers’ welfare. Under Lim’s leadership, the membership of the SFSWU grew to approximately 30,000 within a year.16


Political leadership
In 1954, Lim, along with his Chinese High classmate,17 Fong Swee Suan, was introduced to Lee Kuan Yew, who was then looking for like-minded people to join a new political party, which became known as the PAP. Despite their ideological differences, the three men shared one common goal to bring about full independence for Singapore. Lim met with others regularly to discuss the finalisation of the party manifesto. However, he asked to be excluded as one of the convenors of the party because he had a police record; he was afraid that this might be used to jeopardise the party. Eventually, together with Lee and others, Lim and Fong became founding members of the PAP when the party was established on 21 November 1954.18


The party nominated Lim as one of the candidates to contest in the 1955 Legislative Assembly election.19 During his campaign Lim became famous for his fiery speeches made in the Hokkien dialect, which appealed to the majority of the Chinese population.20 In April 1955, the 22-year-old Lim was successfully elected as the assemblyman for the Bukit Timah constituency.21 The following year, Lim and Lee represented the PAP at the London Constitutional Talks, which ended in failure –­ the British declined to grant Singapore internal self-government.22 On 7 June 1956, David Marshall, disappointed with the constitutional talks, stepped down as chief minister,23 and was replaced by Lim Yew Hock.24

Social unrest
In the struggle for independence, a series of riots between the people and the government broke out in the mid-1950s. Three of the most significant ones were the National Service riots in May 1954, the Hock Lee Bus riot in May 1955, and the Chinese middle schools’ disturbances in October 1956.25 The government became concerned that communist subversion was instigating the students and workers to riot. During the 10 May 1955 Legislative Assembly session, then Chief Secretary William Goode and Chief Minister David Marshall accused the PAP of being pro-communist. Lim and Fong were particularly targeted due to their relationships with the unions. Lim and Lee, who were both present at the session denied the accusation.26 This, however, did not stop the arrest of Lim, Fong and other trade unionists by the police in the aftermath of the Chinese middle schools’ disturbances, which had caused islandwide unrest.27


Internal party split
During the 1959 general election, the PAP won 43 out of 51 seats,28 and Lee, who became prime minister, requested that Lim and the rest of the PAP leftists who had been arrested for the riots in 1956 be released from prison to form the new cabinet.29 Lim and Fong were subsequently appointed as political secretaries to the minister for finance and the minister for labour and law, respectively.30


However, the PAP left-wingers clashed with the moderates again in 1961 over the issue of merger with Malaya. The moderates saw merger as a chance for independence from colonial rule; at the same time, they believed that it would bring about greater political and economic stability for Singapore.31 Lim and the other radicals in the party suspected the moderates of conspiring against them with the anticommunist Malayan Prime Minister, Tunku Abdul Rahman.32 Further rifts in the party eventually led to the expulsion of Lim’s faction from the PAP in July 1961.33

The expelled party members gathered their supporters and went on to form the Barisan Sosialis, which was inaugurated on 17 September 1961 with Lim as the party’s secretary-general.34 The PAP and the Barisan Sosialis’ debate over the issue of merger with Malaya intensified through rallies and over the media.35 On 1 September 1962, a national referendum for merger was held and the option proposed by the PAP won the majority vote.36

Detention and exile
After the PAP’s victory in the referendum, Lim and the Barisan began to stress for a “Greater Malaysia” and called for the coalition of anticolonial left-wing forces in the Southeast Asian region to oppose all neo-colonialist influence. At the same time, Lim also urged for better relations with the Indonesian archipelago.37


On 2 February 1963, the Internal Security Council launched a security operation known as Operation Coldstore, which led to the arrest of Lim, Fong and more than 100 leaders and activists of political parties, unions, rural, educational and cultural organisations.38 These individuals were detained under the Preservation of Public Security Ordinance (now known as the Internal Security Act).39 During his imprisonment from 1963 to 1969, Lim was reported to have suffered from depression. In 1969, he wrote a letter to then Prime Minister Lee announcing his decision to quit politics and going overseas to further his studies. At the same time, another letter was sent to the chairman of Barisan Socialis, Lee Siew Choh, to inform him of his intention to resign from all positions held in the party and to quit politics.40 Upon his release in July 1969, Lim left to further his studies in London.41 Wong Chui Wan, his fiancée and one of his close colleagues in the General Employees Union, accompanied him.42

Lim and Wong were married in 1970. The couple had two sons, one in 1973 and another in 1977.43 In 1979, Lim and his family returned to Singapore.44

Death
While travelling in China in 1980, Lim suffered a heart attack and was admitted to a hospital in Shanghai for 20 days. On 4 September 1982, he underwent a coronary bypass surgery at St Vincent Hospital in Sydney.45


Lim died from a heart attack in Singapore on 5 February 1996.46

Family
Father: Lim Teng Geok

Mother: Ang Kee Neo
Brothers: Chin Kiat, Chin Joo, Cheng Hoo, Ching Ho, Cheng Hock and Cheng Chai
Sisters: Siew Luan, Siew Hong, Siew Tee, Siew Kea and Siew Hoon47
Wife: Wong Chui Wan
Sons: Zi Yi and Zi Kuan48



Author
Wong Hongyi




References
1. Tan, J. Q., Jomo, K. S., & Poh, S. K. (Eds.). (2015). Comet in our sky: Lim Chin Siong in history. Malaysia: Strategic Information and Research Development, p. 56. (Call no.: RSING 959.5 COM); Chin Siong back after 10 years in Britain. (1980, January 16). The Straits Times, p. 7. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
2. Chew, M. (1996). Leaders of Singapore. Singapore: Resource Press, p. 112. (Call no.: RSING q920.05957 CHE)
3. Who was the youngest. (2011, April 8). The Straits Times, pp. 24–25; Morgan, P. (1955, April 23). It’s a day to be remembered. The Straits Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
4. Chew, M. (1996). Leaders of Singapore. Singapore: Resource Press, pp. 107, 112. (Call no.: RSING q920.05957 CHE).; Lee, K. Y. (2015). The Singapore story: Memoirs of Lee Kuan Yew. Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Editions, p. 186. (Call no.: RSING 959.5705092 LEE)
5. Ee, B. L. (1961, July 23). Sack for 5 parliamentary secretaries who abstained in confidence vote. The Straits Times, p. 4; Govt dismisses four top party rebels. (1961, July 22). The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
6. Ee, B. L., & Lim B. T. (1963, February 6). Who’s who in the big round-up. The Straits Times, p. 10. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
7. Chin Siong to quit politics. (1969, July 24). The Straits Times, p. 1; Sam, J. (1969, July 25). Chin Siong’s followers now likely to ask for freedom. The Straits Times, p. 15. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
8. Chin Siong back after 10 years in Britain. (1980, January 16). The Straits Times, p. 7. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
9. Chew, M. (1996). Leaders of Singapore. Singapore: Resource Press, p. 112. (Call no.: RSING q920.05957 CHE)
10. Tan, J. Q., Jomo, K. S., & Poh, S. K. (Eds.). (2015). Comet in our sky: Lim Chin Siong in history. Malaysia: Strategic Information and Research Development, pp. 56–57. (Call no.: RSING 959.5 COM)
11. Tan, J. Q., Jomo, K. S., & Poh, S. K. (Eds.). (2015). Comet in our sky: Lim Chin Siong in history. Malaysia: Strategic Information and Research Development, p. 57. (Call no.: RSING 959.5 COM); Chew, M. (1996). Leaders of Singapore. Singapore: Resource Press, p. 112. (Call no.: RSING q920.05957 CHE)
12. Chew, M. (1996). Leaders of Singapore. Singapore: Resource Press, p. 113. (Call no.: RSING q920.05957 CHE)
13. Tan, J. Q., Jomo, K. S., & Poh, S. K. (Eds.). (2015). Comet in our sky: Lim Chin Siong in history. Malaysia: Strategic Information and Research Development, pp. 56–61. (Call no.: RSING 959.5 COM)
14. Chew, M. (1996). Leaders of Singapore. Singapore: Resource Press, p. 113. (Call no.: RSING q920.05957 CHE)
15. Chew, M. (1996). Leaders of Singapore. Singapore: Resource Press, p. 114. (Call no.: RSING q920.05957 CHE).; Tan, J. Q., Jomo, K. S., & Poh, S. K. (Eds.). (2015). Comet in our sky: Lim Chin Siong in history. Malaysia: Strategic Information and Research Development, pp. 61–63. (Call no.: RSING 959.5 COM)
16. Chew, M. (1996). Leaders of Singapore. Singapore: Resource Press, pp. 114–115. (Call no.: RSING q920.05957 CHE); Tan, J. Q., Jomo, K. S., & Poh, S. K. (Eds.). (2015). Comet in our sky: Lim Chin Siong in history. Malaysia: Strategic Information and Research Development, p. 63. (Call no.: RSING 959.5 COM)
17. 方水双 [Fang, S. S.]. (2007). 《方水双回忆录》 [The memoirs of Fong Swee Suan]. 新山: 陶德书香楼, p. 24. (Call no.: Chinese RSING 959.5704 FSS-[HIS])
18. Chew, M. (1996). Leaders of Singapore. Singapore: Resource Press, p. 114. (Call no.: RSING q920.05957 CHE); Lee, K. Y. (2015). The Singapore story: Memoirs of Lee Kuan Yew. Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Editions, pp. 177–181. (Call no.: RSING 959.5705092 LEE)
19. They are Action candidates. (1955, February 15). The Singapore Free Press, p. 5. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
20. Chew, M. (1996). Leaders of Singapore. Singapore: Resource Press, p. 116. (Call no.: RSING q920.05957 CHE); Lee, K. Y. (2015). The Singapore story: Memoirs of Lee Kuan Yew. Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Editions, p. 186. (Call no.: RSING 959.5705092 LEE); Tan, J. Q., Jomo, K. S., & Poh, S. K. (Eds.). (2015). Comet in our sky: Lim Chin Siong in history. Malaysia: Strategic Information and Research Development, p. 165. (Call no.: RSING 959.5 COM)
21. Who was the youngest. (2011, April 8). The Straits Times, pp. 24–25; Morgan, P. (1955, April 23). It’s a day to be remembered. The Straits Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
22. PAP view…. (1956, May 29). The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
23. Mr Marshall passes on. (1956, June 8). The Straits Times, p. 8. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
24. Morgan, P. (1959, June 8). From clerk to chief minister. The Straits Times, p. 8. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
25. Clutterbuck, R. L. (1984). Conflict and violence in Singapore and Malaysia 1945–1983. Singapore: Graham Brash, pp. 84, 121. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 CLU-[HIS])
26. The guilty men – by Goode. (1955, May 17). The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
27. Chief Minister: ‘First task to restore order – do nothing to impede it’. (1956, October 28). The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
28. 2.45 am – PAP romps home with landslide victory. (1959, May 31). The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
29. Lee is premier. (1959, June 2). The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
30. Ministry post for Lim Chin Siong. (1959, September 29). The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
31. Merger issue: Dr. Toh hits out at six top unionists. (1961, July 10). The Straits Times, p. 1; 8 back Union-Six. (1961, July 14). The Straits Times, p. 1; Chia, P. (1961, July 23). Solution to Singapore’s problem: Merger and common mart – Lee. The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
32. The Barisan view on merger. (1961, September 18). The Straits Times, p. 9. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
33. Ee, B. L. (1961, July 23). Sack for 5 parliamentary secretaries who abstained in confidence vote. The Straits Times, p. 4; Govt dismisses four top party rebels. (1961, July 22). The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
34. The Barisan view of merger. (1961, September 18). The Straits Times, p. 9; Lim Chin Siong is named Barisan leader. (1961, September 18). The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
35. Merger referendum: A Barisan query for government. (1961, October 2). The Straits Times, p. 4; Invitations to reply to Lee on the air. (1961, October 11). The Straits Times, p. 1; Citizenship: PAP accused of confusing issue. (1961, December 11). The Straits Times, p. 20. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
36. Sam, J. (1962, September 1). Merger D-day in S’pore today. The Straits Times, p. 1; Merger ‘Yes’. (1962, September 3). The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
37. Barisan’s Malaysia fear: British-Alliance axis. (1962, October 16). The Straits Times, p. 20. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
38. Ee, B. L., & Lim, B. T. (1963, February 6). Who’s who in the big round-up. The Straits Times, p. 10. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
39. Abisheganaden, F. (1963, February 3). 107 held in Singapore dawn drive. The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
40. Chin Siong to quit politics. (1969, July 24). The Straits Times, p. 1; Sam, J. (1969, July 25). Chin Siong’s followers now likely to ask for freedom. The Straits Times, p. 15. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
41. Chin Siong off to London. (1969, July 29). The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
42. Tan, J. Q., Jomo, K. S., & Poh, S. K. (Eds.). (2015). Comet in our sky: Lim Chin Siong in history. Malaysia: Strategic Information and Research Development, p. 89. (Call no.: RSING 959.5 COM)
43. Tan, J. Q., Jomo, K. S., & Poh, S. K. (Eds.). (2015). Comet in our sky: Lim Chin Siong in history. Malaysia: Strategic Information and Research Development, p. 89. (Call no.: RSING 959.5 COM).
44. Chin Siong back after 10 years in Britain. (1980, January 16). The Straits Times, p. 7. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
45. Tan, J. Q., Jomo, K. S., & Poh, S. K. (Eds.). (2015). Comet in our sky: Lim Chin Siong in history. Malaysia: Strategic Information and Research Development, pp. 90–91. (Call no.: RSING 959.5 COM)
46. Chin Siong dies of heart attack. (1996, February 6). The New Paper, p. 10. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
47. Tan, J. Q., Jomo, K. S., & Poh, S. K. (Eds.). (2015). Comet in our sky: Lim Chin Siong in history. Malaysia: Strategic Information and Research Development, pp. 56, 58, 94. (Call no.: RSING 959.5 COM)
48. Pang, G. C. (1996, February 9). Old friends and party comrades pay their respects. The Straits Times, p. 41. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.



Further resources
陈国防 & 陈慧娴 [Chen, G. F., & Chen, H. X.]. (2016). 《清水长流 祥光永晖 : 林清祥逝世二十周年纪念》 [A commemorative publication on the 20th death anniversary of Lim Chin Siong]. 新加坡: 八方功能有限公司.

(Call no.: Chinese RSING 959.505 QIN)

Harper, T. N. (2004). 《林清祥与新加坡的故事: 历史的另一面》 [Lim Chin Siong and Singapore: The other story]. Petaling Jaya: 策略研究中心.
(Call no.: Chinese RSING 959.5704 HAR-[HIS])

林清如 [Lin, Q. R.]. (2014). 《我的黑白青春》 [My youth in black and white]. 新加坡: 脊项图书出版社.
(Call no.: Chinese RSING 920.05957 LQR)



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
Politics and Government
Politicians
Personalities>>Biographies>>Political Leaders
Politicians--Singapore--Biography
Labor leaders--Singapore--Biography
History>>Asia>>Southeast Asia>>Singapore
Law and government>>Political process>>Leadership
Lim, Chin Siong, 1933-1996