Fong Chong Pik



Fong Chong Pik (b. 1926, China–d. 6 February 2004, Hat Yai, Thailand), also known as Fang Chuang Pi, was a political activist and member of the Communist Party of Malaya (CPM), otherwise known as the Malayan Communist Party (MCP). He was the CPM’s representative, dubbed “The Plen”, who tried negotiating with politician Lee Kuan Yew of the People’s Action Party (PAP) on a possible united front against the British in the late 1950s.

Early life and education

Fong was born in China in 1926. He came to Singapore with his mother when he was six years old and studied at Shu Qin Primary School in Bukit Timah.1 In 1939, Fong entered The Chinese High School but his studies were interrupted by the Second World War. He resumed schooling after the war had ended and graduated in 1947.2

After graduation, Fong worked as a student discipline officer at The Chinese High School for a year before becoming a teacher at Sin Ming Primary School.3 While teaching, the 22-year-old Fong enrolled in St Andrews School to study English.4

In 1950, Fong joined the Chinese newspaper Nan Chiau Jit Poh as a reporter and was given the task of crime reporting mainly covering court cases.5 It was during his time at the newspaper that Fong joined the CPM.6 Fong’s leftist leanings were reinforced by his experiences as a court reporter and his exposure to anti-colonial and Marxist literature. He regarded the colonial system as unjust and felt discriminated against as a Chinese-educated person.7

Fong’s colleague, Eu Chooi Yip, also groomed him for the communist cause. Eu was then secretary general of the Malayan Democratic Union, one of the political parties associated with the CPM. It was at Nan Chiau Jit Poh that Fong began editing for the communist underground newspaper, Freedom News.8

Going underground
In September 1950, the British launched a raid on the Nan Chiau Jit Poh office. Fong escaped the authorities and went underground.9 He became a wanted man with the British offering a reward of 2,000 Malayan dollars for his arrest.10


Fong took on publishing and distribution work for Freedom News while in hiding from the authorities.11 Freedom News was the organ of the Singapore Town Committee, an underground organisation of the CPM. Less than a year later, the offices of Freedom News was raided by the Special Branch, but Fong again managed to escape arrest.12

In 1957, Fong left Singapore for Jakarta on orders from the CPM. In Jakarta, he met up with Eu once more. Both men were then part of a working group created to fill the leadership vacuum in Singapore, where most of the CPM organisation had been smashed by the British.13

At the Jakarta meetings, Fong was directed to make contact with PAP assemblyman Lee Kuan Yew in Singapore to discuss the possibility of cooperation in the form of a united front between the CPM and PAP.14

The Plen
Fong first made contact with Lee Kuan Yew in 1958. Lee and Fong met on four occasions before the 1959 general election and once in 1961. Lee revealed the meetings with Fong, whom he dubbed “The Plen” (short for plenipotentiary), in one of his 12 radio broadcasts in 1961.15


At their last meeting in 1961, Fong thanked Lee for helping his sister Fung Yin Ching seek medical help.16 Fung was then a PAP legislative assemblywoman. She later went to join the Barisan Sosialis, a political party formed in 1961 by left-wing members of the PAP. According to Lee, Fong wanted to have “more opportunities for communist activities” and expansion. He also pressed Lee to agree to the abolition of the Internal Security Council. However, Lee did not commit himself to Fong’s demands.17

Although Lee had learned of The Plen’s real identity incidentally during a visit to the Special Branch, he did not reveal Fong’s details at the time. It was only on 25 September 1963, shortly after the merger with Malaysia, that Lee announced he would reveal the identity of Fong to the Malaysian central government as he was then no longer in charge of Singapore’s internal security. Lee gave The Plen two weeks to leave Malaysia,18 but Fong had already left Singapore shortly after the 1962 Referendum and was directing CPM activities in Singapore from the Riau Islands in Indonesia.19

Lee subsequently revealed The Plen’s true identity to Malaysia’s internal security minister Dato Ismail bin Dato Abdul Rahman. Lee also claimed that The Plen was one of the main committee members of the CPM who ran the communist activities in Singapore.20

Going into the jungles
After Fong went underground in 1950, he was rarely seen in public as most of the CPM activities in Singapore were covert in nature. In 1963, Fong and 44 other CPM members were asked to withdraw to Indonesia as the situation was getting tougher for members to operate underground in Singapore.21

Fong resurfaced in southern Thailand in 1977. In his memoirs, Fong claimed that he had spent the previous 10 years on a “tortuous and circuitous route” through more than 10 countries before arriving in Thailand.22 There, he joined the 12th Detachment, which was one of the CPM forces carrying out guerrilla activities in the Betong district located along Thailand’s southernmost border with Malaysia. During his years in the jungle, Fong took on the name Lee Ping.23

On 2 December 1989, the CPM signed the Haadyai (or Hat Yai) Peace Accord with Malaysia and Thailand. Under the terms of the peace accord, the CPM agreed to lay down its arms and disband its army.24

Later years
After the signing of the peace accord, Fong remained in Thailand. In his later years, he was involved in promoting development and tourism in the peace villages created for ex-MCP members.25

Fong lived in Thailand with his wife, Zheng Hong Ying. They had a son, Guan Shao Ping, who did not see his parents since 1970 when was five years old. That year, Shao Ping was sent from his birthplace of Indonesia to Hunan, China, where he was raised in a village together with other children of CPM members. In the 1990s, Guan worked as an engineer in Singapore for a company that was part of Singapore Technologies Holdings.26

Following the signing of the peace accord in 1989, Fong made several requests to return to Singapore, where he had been banned from entering since 1966.27 In August 1995, Fong was granted a one-week social visit pass to Singapore to pay respects to his deceased parents and visit Eu, his ex-mentor and CPM comrade. Eu had been allowed to return to Singapore in 1991 after renouncing communism and severing ties with the CPM. The Singapore government’s position was that Fong could only return if he agreed to publicly severe ties with the CPM and satisfy the Internal Security Department that he had done so. Fong declined the offer.28

Fong died of cancer in Hat Yai, Thailand, on 6 February 2004.29



Author

Jaime Koh



References
1. Fang, Z. (2008). Fong Chong Pik: The memoirs of a Malayan Communist Revolutionary. Petaling Jaya: Strategic Information and Research Development Centre, p. vii. (Call no.: RSING 959.5704092 FAN -[HIS])
2. Fang, Z. (2008). Fong Chong Pik: The memoirs of a Malayan Communist Revolutionary. Petaling Jaya: Strategic Information and Research Development Centre, pp. 29–30, 34. (Call no.: RSING 959.5704092 FAN -[HIS])
3. Fang, Z. (2008). Fong Chong Pik: The memoirs of a Malayan Communist Revolutionary. Petaling Jaya: Strategic Information and Research Development Centre, p. 45. (Call no.: RSING 959.5704092 FAN -[HIS])
4. Fang, Z. (2008). Fong Chong Pik: The memoirs of a Malayan Communist Revolutionary. Petaling Jaya: Strategic Information and Research Development Centre, pp. 47–49. (Call no.: RSING 959.5704092 FAN -[HIS])
5. Fang, Z. (2008). Fong Chong Pik: The memoirs of a Malayan Communist Revolutionary. Petaling Jaya: Strategic Information and Research Development Centre, pp. 68–71. (Call no.: RSING 959.5704092 FAN -[HIS])
6. Fong, C. P. (2008). Fong Chong Pik: The memoirs of a Malayan Communist Revolutionary. Petaling Jaya: Strategic Information and Research Development Centre, p. vii. (Call no.: RSING 959.5704092 FAN -[HIS])
7. Fang, Z. (2008). Fong Chong Pik: The memoirs of a Malayan Communist Revolutionary. Petaling Jaya: Strategic Information and Research Development Centre, pp. 63–72. (Call no.: RSING 959.5704092 FAN -[HIS])
8. Fang, Z. (2008). Fong Chong Pik: The memoirs of a Malayan Communist Revolutionary. Petaling Jaya: Strategic Information and Research Development Centre, pp. 78–81. (Call no.: RSING 959.5704092 FAN -[HIS])
9. Fang, Z. (2008). Fong Chong Pik: The memoirs of a Malayan Communist Revolutionary. Petaling Jaya: Strategic Information and Research Development Centre, pp. 82–85. (Call no.: RSING 959.5704092 FAN -[HIS])
10. Fang, Z. (2008). Fong Chong Pik: The memoirs of a Malayan Communist Revolutionary. Petaling Jaya: Strategic Information and Research Development Centre, p. 85. (Call no.: RSING 959.5704092 FAN -[HIS])
11. Fang, Z. (2008). Fong Chong Pik: The memoirs of a Malayan Communist Revolutionary. Petaling Jaya: Strategic Information and Research Development Centre, p. 87. (Call no.: RSING 959.5704092 FAN -[HIS])
12. Fang, Z. (2008). Fong Chong Pik: The memoirs of a Malayan Communist Revolutionary. Petaling Jaya: Strategic Information and Research Development Centre, pp. 87–93 (Call no.: RSING 959.5704092 FAN -[HIS]).
13. Fang, Z. (2008). Fong Chong Pik: The memoirs of a Malayan Communist Revolutionary. Petaling Jaya: Strategic Information and Research Development Centre, p. 122. (Call no.: RSING 959.5704092 FAN -[HIS])
14. Fang, Z. (2008). Fong Chong Pik: The memoirs of a Malayan Communist Revolutionary. Petaling Jaya: Strategic Information and Research Development Centre, pp. 117–128. (Call no.: RSING 959.5704092 FAN -[HIS]); Lee, K. Y. (1998). The Singapore Story: Memoirs of Lee Kuan Yew. Singapore: Times Editions, p. 282. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 LEE -[HIS])
15. The broadcasts were later published as a book. See Lee, K. Y. (1961) The Battle for Merger. Singapore: Government Printing Office. (Call no.: RCLOS 959.57 SIN)
16. Lee, K. Y. (1998). The Singapore Story: Memoirs of Lee Kuan Yew. Singapore: Times Editions, p. 358. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 LEE -[HIS])
17. Lee, K. Y. (1998). The Singapore Story: Memoirs of Lee Kuan Yew. Singapore: Times Editions, pp. 359–361. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 LEE -[HIS])
18. Chia, P. (1963, September 26). Lee to name “Plen”. The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG
19. Lee, K. Y. (1998). The Singapore Story: Memoirs of Lee Kuan Yew. Singapore: Times Editions, p. 512. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 LEE -[HIS])
20. Ismail gets the name of the Plen. (1963, October 11). The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
21. 方壮壁生前接受专访,二度死里逃生 [Fong Chong Pik accepts interview before his death, speaks of escaping from death twice]. (2004, February 9). 星洲日报 [Sin Chiew Jit Poh]. Retrieved from Factiva.
22. Fang, Z. (2008). Fong Chong Pik: The memoirs of a Malayan Communist Revolutionary. Petaling Jaya: Strategic Information and Research Development Centre, p. 182. (Call no.: RSING 959.5704092 FAN -[HIS])
23. Fang, Z. (2008). Fong Chong Pik: The memoirs of a Malayan Communist Revolutionary. Petaling Jaya: Strategic Information and Research Development Centre, p. 206. (Call no.: RSING 959.5704092 FAN -[HIS])
24. Tan, L. C. (1989, December 3). Accord is an honourable settlement, says Chin Peng. The Straits Times, p. 16. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Tan, L. C. (1989, December 2). Giving up the struggle without surrendering. (1989, December 2). The Straits Times, p. 32. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
25. 前马共领导人,方壮壁病逝. [Former CPM leader Fong Chong Pik dies of illness] (2004, February 8). 星洲日报 [Sin Chiew Jit Poh]. Retrieved from Factiva.
26. Tan, S. (1990, December 2). Plen's son lands a job here. The Straits Times, p. 22. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
27. S’pore bars entry of The Plen. (1966, December 3). The Straits Times, p. 24. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
28. Ong-Chew, P. W. (2004, February 12). Plen’s men can return, on 3 conditions. The Straits Times, p. 18. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
29. Nirmala, M., & Leong, W. K. (2004, February 8). 1950s S’pore communist leader dies. (2004, February 8). The Straits Times, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Fang, Z. (2008). Fong Chong Pik: The memoirs of a Malayan Communist Revolutionary. Petaling Jaya: Strategic Information and Research Development Centre, p. viii. (Call no.: RSING 959.5704092 FAN -[HIS])



Further resources
Cheng, S, T. (1998, June 16). The Plen — 38 years underground and still very much a threat. The Straits Times, p. 23. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.

Clutterbuck, R. (1973. Riot and revolution in Singapore and Malaya 1945-1963. London: Faber and Faber Limited.
(Call no.: RSING 959.57024 CLU -[HIS])

Lau, L. (2004, February 9). The Plen wanted to get his comrades home. The Straits Times, p. 5. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.

The Plen: What S’pore would have become. (1997, July 22). The Straits Times, p. 42. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.



The information in this article is valid as at 1 July 2013 and correct as far as we can 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
Communist parties
Communist leadership--Singapore
Communist leadership
Biographies
Political activists -- Singapore
Activists

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