Lee San Choon

Lee San Choon (Chinese: 李三春; pinyin: Lǐ Sānchūn; born 24 March 1935) is a former Malaysian politician and a businessman. He is the fourth president of Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA), a major component party of Barisan Nasional (BN) from 1975 to 1983. He led the party in three general election elections in Malaysia, most successfully in the 1982 general election. He held various ministerial posts in the cabinet of the Malaysian government from 1969 to 1983, such as Labour and Manpower Minister, Works and Public Utilities Minister, as well as Transport Minister

Lee San Choon
4th President of the Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA)
In office
August 1975  25 March 1983
Preceded byTan Siew Sin
Succeeded byTan Koon Swan
Ministerial roles
1964–1969Parliamentary Secretary of Labour
1969–1971Deputy Minister with Special Functions
1971–1973Assistant Minister of Labour
1973–1974Minister of Technology, Research and Coordination of New Villages
1974–1978Minister of Labour and Manpower
1978–1979Minister of Works and Public Amenities
1979–1983Minister of Transport
Faction represented in Dewan Rakyat
1959–1974Alliance Party
1974–1983Barisan Nasional
Personal details
Lee Soon Seng

(1935-03-24) 24 March 1935
Pekan, Pahang, Federated Malay States, British Malaya (now Malaysia)
Political partyMalayan Chinese Association (MCA)
Other political
Barisan Nasional (BN)
ResidenceKuala Lumpur
OccupationMCA President
Company chairman

Early life

Lee San Choon was born on 24 March 1935 in Pekan, Pahang to Lee Debin (Chinese: 李德斌) and Yang Zhenling (Chinese: 楊貞齡), immigrant parents from Tianmen, Hubei in China.[1] Lee had his early education in a Chinese-medium school, Chung Hwa School in Pekan, before being transferred to Sultan Ahmad School for a year of English education. The family moved to Johor Bahru in Johor when he was 12, and he completed his secondary education at Johore English College.[2] After finishing school, he taught English at a primary school in Singapore, held a minor position in the government's Social Welfare Department, then worked as a clerk in a textile factory.[3]

Political career

Lee San Choon joined the Malayan Chinese Association in 1957. He was elected a Member of Parliament in the Kluang Utara parliamentary seat in the 1959 Malayan general election, winning the former socialist stronghold by a majority of 1,458 votes, and became the youngest MP in Malaya at the age of 24.[4] After Kluang Utara, he represented the Segamat Selatan constituency from 1964 to 1974 and Segamat until 1982. He was elected Chairman of MCA Youth in 1962. In 1968, as the MCA Youth leader, he was involved in the creation of the Koperatif Serbaguna Malaysia Bhd (KSM), a business organization based on the cooperative principle.[3]

After the May 13 Riots in 1969, he was appointed Deputy Minister with Special Functions in the Cabinet by the National Operations Council. When parliamentary democracy was restored in 1971, he was given the post of Labour Minister in the new cabinet. He became the Deputy President of MCA in 1972. On 8 April 1974, just before the 1974 general election, he was made Acting President of MCA after Tun Tan Siew Sin resigned on grounds of ill-health.[5] He was then elected President of MCA in August 1975. He held various offices in the Malaysian government, such as the Labour and Manpower Minister, the Works and Public Utilities Minister, and the Transport Minister.[4]

While he was president of MCA, he launched five major initiatives. These were the building of Wisma MCA, the headquarter of the party; the setting up of a building fund for Tunku Abdul Rahman College to expand opportunity for tertiary education for the Chinese population; the founding of Multi-Purpose Holdings Berhad, an investment holding company; the establishment of Malaysian Chinese Cultural Society; and a drive to increase MCA membership.[4][5]

In the 1982 general election, in response to a taunt by the opposition Democratic Action Party (DAP) that the MCA's leadership did not dare contest seats with large urban Chinese majority, Lee accepted the challenge and contested the parliamentary seat for Seremban against the DAP Chairman Dr. Chen Man Hin who had held that seat since 1969.[6] Lee won the contest, and also led his party to a landslide victory, winning 24 out of 28 allocated parliamentary seats and 55 out of 62 state seats.[4] However, on 24 March 1983, at the height of his career, Lee unexpectedly resigned from the Cabinet for unspecified reason, and relinquished his position as President of MCA a day later.[7] In 2000, he said in an interview with the Chinese edition of Asiaweek that he was "stabbed in the back" by UMNO leaders in the 1982 election.[8]

Business career

After his retirement from politics, Lee was appointed Chairman/Chief Executive Officer of Multi-Purpose Holdings Bhd, Chairman of Malaysian French Bank Bhd and Chairman of Industrial Oxygen Incorporated Bhd. He is also Chairman of Lee & Mok Sdn Bhd, Sunrise Bhd, Magerk Sdn Bhd and Worldspan Travel (M) Sdn Bhd.[9]

Election results

Parliament of Malaysia
Year Constituency Candidate Votes Pct Opponent(s) Votes Pct Ballots cast Majority Turnout
1964 P090 Segamat Selatan, Johor Lee San Choon (MCA) 11,355 63.33% Chiu Siu Meng (SF) 4,956 27.64% 18,693 6,399 82.43%
Tan Luan Hong (UDP) 1,619 9.03%
1969 Lee San Choon (MCA) 14,470 73.63% Abdul Rahman Abdul Rasool (IND) 5,183 26.37% 21,305 9,287 71.66%
1974 P100 Segamat, Johor Lee San Choon (MCA) 17,369 74.42% Lee Ah Meng (DAP) 5,971 25.58% 24,298 11,398 81.28%
1978 Lee San Choon (MCA) 22,098 82.22% Abdul Hak Fadzil (PAS) 4,780 17.78% 17,318
1982 P091 Seremban, Negeri Sembilan Lee San Choon (MCA) 23,258 50.93% Chen Man Hin (DAP) 22,413 49.07% 46,903 845 77.22%


Places named after him

  • Dewan San Choon Wisma MCA, a Hall for the Annual General Meeting of Malaysian Chinese Association


  1. Wong Wun Bin (2012). Leo Suryadinata (ed.). Southeast Asian Personalities of Chinese Descent: A Biographical Dictionary. Institute of Southeast Asian Studies. pp. 534–536. ISBN 978-9814345217.
  2. "第4任总会长:丹斯里李三春". 马华公会 Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA). Archived from the original on 9 August 2011.
  3. Edmund Terence Gomez (2012). Chinese Business in Malaysia: Accumulation, Ascendance, Accommodation. Routledge. pp. 72–73. ISBN 978-0415517379.
  4. "Tan Sri Lee San Choon". Malaysian Chinese Association. Archived from the original on 20 April 2011.
  5. Ting Hui Lee (2011). Chinese Schools in Peninsular Malaysia: The Struggle for Survival. Institute of Southeast Asian Studies. pp. 127–128. ISBN 9789814279215.
  6. Harold A. Crouch (1982). Malaysia's 1982 General Election. Institute of Southeast Asian Studies. p. 48. ISBN 978-9971902452.
  7. "San Choon Resigns". New Straits Times. March 24, 1983.
  8. Adbullah Ahmad (September 26, 2000). "Backstabbing: Et tu San Choon?". New Straits Times.
  9. "Sunrise Berhad: Annual Report 2001" (PDF). Sunrise.
  10. "Senarai Penuh Penerima Darjah Kebesaran, Bintang dan Pingat Persekutuan Tahun 1963" (PDF).
  11. "Senarai Penuh Penerima Darjah Kebesaran, Bintang dan Pingat Persekutuan Tahun 1990" (PDF).
  12. Johore Sultan's Birthday List Parade. New Straits Times. 3 November 1973.
  13. Maktab Sultan Abu Bakar (English College) : Sejarah dan Biografi 100 Tokoh Melakar Kegemilangan. Kamdi Kamil (1st ed.). Johor Bahru: Percetakan Bumi Restu Sdn Bhd. 2014. p. 130. ISBN 978-983-42249-8-1. OCLC 892514524.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: others (link)
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