Lee Khoon Choy(李炯才)
By Chew, Valerie written on 2008-10-28
National Library Board Singapore
Lee Khoon Choy (b. 1924, Penang, Malaysia -) served Singapore as politician and diplomat over a span of 29 years. 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 been ambassador and high commissioner to eight countries. Since 1988, he has founded his own firm, Eng Lee Investment Consultants, and sat on the board of several other companies. The multilingual former diplomat is also a musician, an author and a painter. He has published nine books and his paintings have been exhibited in Singapore, Indonesia, Japan and China.
Lee was born into a Hakka family in the town of Butterworth in Penang. His father had two wives and 15 children. His mother was the second wife.
He received his primary and secondary education in Penang. He went to Yeok Keow Chinese School, followed by the prestigious Chung Ling High School.
After Penang fell to the Japanese in December 1941, he took refuge in his uncle's farm located in a jungle. Towards the end of the Japanese Occupation, he learnt Japanese and became a Japanese language teacher. After the Japanese left in 1945, he began teaching at his alma mater Yeok Keow.
1946 : Joined the Chinese-language daily Sin Pin Jit Poh in Penang as a cub reporter.
1947 : Transferred to Singapore to work for Sin Pin Jit Poh's sister paper Sin Chew Jit Poh, also a Chinese-language daily.
1949 : Left for England on a year-long scholarship from the Colonial Welfare Fund to study journalism at the Regent Street Polytechnic in London.
1950 : Graduated with a diploma in journalism. Returned to Singapore and worked for both Sin Chew Jit Poh and its affiliated English-language daily Singapore Standard.
1953 : Resigned in protest against the dismissal of his brother-in-law from Sin Chew Jit Poh. Joined Nanyang Siang Pau as its chief reporter.
1955 : Covered the historic Afro-Asian Conference at Bandung, Indonesia.
1956 : Covered the Malayan Merdeka ("Independence") talks in London. Founded the Singapore National Union of Journalists with S. Rajaratnam as chairman and he as vice-chairman. S. Rajaratnam later became Singapore's first foreign minister.
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. Joined The Straits Times.
1959 : Left The Straits Times, unhappy with the treatment he received at what he felt was an agency dominated by Europeans with no respect for Asian views.
1959 : Joined the People's Action Party (PAP) and became the party's propaganda chief for the legislative assembly election. Elected as assemblyman for Bukit Panjang. Appointed as parliamentary secretary to Ministry of Culture and government whip.
1961 : Transferred to Ministry of Education as parliamentary secretary.
1963 : Lost Bukit Panjang seat in the legislative assembly election. Appointed as political secretary to the prime minister and deputy organising secretary of PAP.
1965 : Elected as assemblyman for Hong Lim in a legislative assembly by-election. Appointed Minister of State for Culture after Singapore gained independence.
1968 : Retained Hong Lim seat by a walkover in the parliamentary general election (GE). Transferred to Prime Minister's Office (PMO) as Minister of State.
1972 : Re-elected as MP for Hong Lim in the GE. Promoted to Senior Minister of State for Foreign Affairs.
1976 : Elected as MP for Braddell Heights by a walkover in the GE.
1977 : Became deputy chairman of the People's Association (PA).
1979 : Appointed Senior Minister of State in PMO.
1980: Re-elected as MP for Braddell Heights by a walkover in the GE.
1984 : Stepped down as Senior Minister of State, MP and deputy chairman of PA.
1968 - 1970 : Served as Singapore's Ambassador to Egypt, Ethiopia, Yugoslavia and Lebanon and as Singapore's High Commissioner in Pakistan.
1970 - 1974 : Served as Singapore's 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 of Singapore, Lee Kuan Yew, to Indonesia in 1973.
1984 - 1988 : Served as Singapore's Ambassador to Japan and South Korea.
1988 : Returned to Singapore and retired from public service.
1974 : Awarded the Bintang Bakti Utama, meaning "Meritorious Service Star", by then Indonesian president Suharto for his work in enhancing relations between Indonesia and Singapore.
1986 : Given the Scholarly Achievement Award by the Japan Institute of Oriental Philosophy for his achievements in the research and development of eastern philosophy, thought and culture.
1988 : Awarded the Order of Diplomatic Service Merit by then South Korean president Roh Tae-woo for his service in promoting relations between South Korea and Singapore.
1990 : Conferred the Darjah Utama Bakti Cemerlang, meaning "Distinguished Service Order", by the Singapore government in recognition of his contributions.
1997 : Made an honorary member of the Chinese National Academy of Social Sciences in Beijing for his contributions in the field of humanities and social sciences.
Other Positions Held
Chairman, Eng Lee Investment Consultants (the company Lee founded in 1990)
Independent Director and Chairman of Audit Committee, Koh Brothers Group
Chairman, Sino-American (UIC) Tours Corporation
Independent Director, Metro Holdings
Non-Executive Chairman, SSH Corporation (formerly known as Sin Soon Huat)
Independent Director, L & M Group Investments
1966 : Politics and Life (written in Chinese)
1976 : Indonesia: Between Myth and Reality
1983 : An Ambassador's Journey
1988 : On the Beat to the Hustings: An Autobiography
1993 : Diplomacy of a Tiny State
1995 : Japan: Between Myth and Reality
1999 : A Fragile Nation: The Indonesian Crisis
2005 : Pioneers of Modern China: Understanding the Inscrutable Chinese
2007 : Passage Through China: This Land so Rich in Beauty
First wife: Florence Khor Swee Hoon (died of cancer in 1959)
Second wife: Eng Ah Siam (married in 1962)
Children: Two sons (by first wife) and five daughters (by second wife)