Lee Hsien Loong
Lee Hsien Loong (Chinese: 李显龙; Tamil: லீ சியன் லூங்; born 10 February 1952) is a Singaporean politician. He is the current and third Prime Minister of Singapore since 2004. He took over the leadership of the People's Action Party (PAP) when former Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong stepped down from the position to become the new Senior Minister. Lee then led his party to victory in the 2006, 2011 and 2015 general elections. He began his current term on 15 January 2016 following the opening of Singapore's 13th Parliament. Lee is the eldest son of Singapore's first Prime Minister, Lee Kuan Yew.
Lee Hsien Loong
Lee Hsien Loong in 2012
|3rd Prime Minister of Singapore|
|Assumed office |
12 August 2004
|President||S. R. Nathan (2004–2011)|
Tony Tan (2011–2017)
Halimah Yacob (2017–present)
|Deputy||Tony Tan (2004–2005) |
S. Jayakumar (2004–2009)
Wong Kan Seng (2005–2011)
Teo Chee Hean (2009–2019)
Tharman Shanmugaratnam (2011–2019)
Heng Swee Keat
|Preceded by||Goh Chok Tong|
|3rd Secretary-General of the People's Action Party|
|Assumed office |
3 December 2004
|Preceded by||Goh Chok Tong|
|Minister for Finance|
10 November 2001 – 1 December 2007
|Prime Minister||Goh Chok Tong|
|Preceded by||Richard Hu|
|Succeeded by||Tharman Shanmugaratnam|
|Deputy Prime Minister of Singapore|
28 November 1990 – 12 August 2004
|Prime Minister||Goh Chok Tong|
|Preceded by||Goh Chok Tong|
|Succeeded by||S. Jayakumar|
|Member of the Singapore Parliament|
for Ang Mo Kio GRC
|Assumed office |
31 August 1991
|Preceded by||Constituency established|
|Member of the Singapore Parliament|
for Teck Ghee SMC
22 December 1984 – 31 August 1991
|Preceded by||Constituency established|
|Succeeded by||Constituency abolished|
|Born||10 February 1952|
Colony of Singapore
|Political party||People's Action Party|
Wong Ming Yang
(m. 1978; died 1982)
Ho Ching (m. 1985)
|Mother||Kwa Geok Choo (mother)|
|Father||Lee Kuan Yew (father)|
|Relatives||Lee Hsien Yang (brother)|
Lee Wei Ling (sister)
|Alma mater||Trinity College, Cambridge |
United States Army Command and General Staff College
|Website||Lee Hsien Loong on Facebook|
|Years of service||1971–1984|
|Commands||Director of the Joint Operations and Plans Directorate |
Chief of Staff of the General Staff
|Lee Hsien Loong|
Lee's name in Simplified (top) and Traditional (bottom) Chinese characters
Lee graduated from Trinity College, Cambridge University, as Senior Wrangler - the top mathematics undergraduate in 1974, and gaining a Diploma in Computer Science with distinction as well. He later earned a Master of Public Administration at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government. From 1971 to 1984, he served in the Singapore Armed Forces where he rose to the rank of brigadier general. He won his first election for Member of Parliament in 1984, contesting as a member of the People's Action Party. Under Singapore's second prime minister, Goh Chok Tong, Lee served as the Minister for Trade and Industry, Minister for Finance and Deputy Prime Minister.
The eldest child of Singapore's first Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew and his wife Kwa Geok Choo, Lee Hsien Loong was born in Singapore on 10 February 1952. His paternal grandmother, Chua Jim Neo, was a Hokkien Hakka Nyonya, and his mother has ancestry from Tong'an District and Shantou in China. According to Lee Kuan Yew's biography, the younger Lee had learnt the Jawi script from the age of five, and has always been interested in the affairs of Singapore, often following his father to the rally grounds since 1963.
Lee studied at Nanyang Primary School and received his secondary education at Catholic High School, before going on to National Junior College (where he learned the clarinet under the tutelage of Adjunct Associate Professor Ho Hwee Long). In 1971, he was awarded a President's Scholarship and Singapore Armed Forces Overseas Scholarship by the Public Service Commission to study mathematics at Trinity College, University of Cambridge. He was Senior Wrangler in 1973, and graduated in 1974 with first-class honours on a Bachelor of Arts in Mathematics and a Diploma in Computer Science (equivalent to a master’s degree in Computer Science, in present-day nomenclature) with distinction. In 1980, he completed a Master of Public Administration at the John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University.
Lee joined the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) in 1971, and served as an officer from 1974 to 1984. In 1978, he attended the United States Army Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, and held various staff and command posts, including the Director of the Joint Operations and Plans Directorate (Director, JOPD), and Chief of Staff of the General Staff (COS, GS). Lee rose quickly through the ranks in the Singapore Army, becoming the youngest brigadier-general in Singaporean history after his promotion in July 1983. Notably, he was put in command of the rescue operations following the Sentosa Cable Car Disaster. Lee served as commanding officer (CO) of 23rd Singapore Artillery (23SA) in the Singapore Army before he left the SAF in 1984 to pursue civilian politics.
Early political career
In the 1980s, Lee was regarded as the core member of the next batch of new leaders in the People's Action Party (PAP) leadership transition that was taking place in the mid-1980s, as Lee Kuan Yew had declared that he would step down as prime minister in 1984. Following the 1984 general election, all of the old Central Executive Committee members resigned on 1 January 1985, except for Lee Kuan Yew himself.
Lee was first elected Member of Parliament (MP) for the Teck Ghee Single Member Constituency in 1984, at the age of thirty-two. Following his first election, he was appointed as a Minister of State in the Ministry of Trade and Industry and the Ministry of Defence by his father Lee Kuan Yew who was the prime minister at that time.
In 1985, Lee chaired the government's economic committee, which recommended changes to established government policies to reduce business costs, foster longer-term growth and revive the Singapore economy, which was experiencing a recession at the time. The committee's recommendations included reductions in corporate and personal taxes and the introduction of a consumption tax.
In 1986, Lee was appointed the acting minister for Trade and Industry. In 1987, he became a full member of the Cabinet as the minister for trade and Industry and second minister for defence.
Lee was the chairman of the PAP Youth Committee, the predecessor to the Young PAP, when it was established in 1986. Lee said that the youth wing would be a channel to communicate dissent, in which otherwise they might be "tempted" to vote for the opposition political parties and bring the PAP government down.
Deputy Prime Minister
On 28 November 1990, Goh Chok Tong took over from Lee Kuan Yew as Singapore's Prime Minister, and Lee Hsien Loong was made one of two Deputy Prime Ministers (along with Ong Teng Cheong). He also continued to serve as the Minister for Trade and Industry until 1992.
In 1992, Lee was diagnosed with lymphoma and underwent a three-month period of chemotherapy. When his treatment began, he relinquished his position as the Minister for Trade and Industry, though he continued to be a Deputy Prime Minister. His chemotherapy was successful, and his cancer has since gone into remission.
To ease the growing budget deficit due to falling tax revenues from cuts in corporate and personal income taxes and other factors such as the Iraq War and SARS outbreak, Lee proposed on 29 August 2003 to raise the GST from three percent to five percent, a change which took place in January 2004.
Lee initiated several amendments to render requirements for Singapore citizenship less restrictive; notably for foreign-born children of Singaporean women. The changes were made after repeated pleas from MPs and the Remaking Singapore Committee.
On 12 August 2004, Lee succeeded Goh Chok Tong as Prime Minister and relinquished his chairmanship of the Monetary Authority of Singapore to Goh Chok Tong. Lee was sworn in by Chief Justice Yong Pung How at the Istana.
In his maiden National Day Rally on 22 August 2004, Lee initiated the policy of the "Five-day work week", a plan that would remove a half-working day on Saturday. The plan took effect on 1 January 2005.
Lee proposed a two-month paid maternity leave for mothers of newborn children and financial incentives to mothers who give birth to a fourth child. These policies were in response to Singapore's declining birth rate.
In November 2004, Lee sparked a national debate when he proposed to build two Integrated Resorts (IRs), or hotel-casinos. In April 2005, despite some public opposition, Lee announced the decision to approve the proposal. The two IRs were built in Marina Bay and Sentosa. To limit the negative social impact of casino gambling, Lee suggested safeguards such as prohibiting minors from the casinos and charging an entrance fee for Singaporeans of S$100 (or S$2000 for a yearly pass).
Three months prior to the general election held on 6 May 2006, Lee announced a S$2.6 billion Progress Package. to distribute budget surpluses in the form of cash, top-ups to the CPF, rental and utilities rebates, and educational funds. The cash bonuses were distributed in early May 2006. Critics, especially members of the opposition, labelled the Progress Package as a "vote-buying exercise".
Effective 1 June 2011, Lee was named chairman of the Government of Singapore Investment Corporation (GIC) which manages more than S$100 billion of assets. He succeeded his father, Lee Kuan Yew, who remained as senior advisor to the fund until his death.
Speaking at his party convention on 19 November 2017, Lee suggested to raise taxes to fund future government expenses. News report carried by state media such as The Straits Times and Today all suggested that taxes raised will be in the form of GST.
In May 2010, Lee instituted electoral reforms to the current electoral system by reducing the number of group representation constituencies (GRC), increased the number of Non-constituency Members of Parliament (NCMPs) to a maximum of nine (inclusive of the number of elected opposition members of Parliament), and the number of Nominated Members of Parliament (NMPs) permanent also to nine. Also part of the reforms was the legalization of internet campaigning and mandating a "cooling-off" day where campaigning is prohibited except for party political broadcasts.
In that election, the PAP won 82 of the 84 seats, including 37 walkovers. The Ang Mo Kio Group Representation Constituency (GRC) was contested for the first time in 15 years. The Workers' Party (WP) claimed that they wanted to give Ang Mo Kio residents a chance to exercise their vote. Lee and his six-member GRC team won 60.42% of the votes against WP's inexperienced team.
In the general election of 7 May 2011, the PAP saw a 6.46% swing downwards to 60.14%, its lowest since independence. While the PAP swept into power winning 81 out of 87 seats, it lost Aljunied Group Representation Constituency to the Workers' Party (WP), a historic win by an opposition party. Foreign Minister George Yeo and Minister in the Prime Minister's Office Lim Hwee Hua of the GRC were defeated.
Following the election, Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew and Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong resigned as part of a rejuvenation process in the government. Lee and Goh were appointed as senior advisers to the Government of Singapore Investment Corporation (GIC) and the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) respectively.
Lee was sworn-in into a second term on 21 May 2011. His new cabinet included three newly appointed ministers: S. Iswaran as Minister in the Prime Minister's Office, and Second Minister for Home Affairs and for Trade and Industry; Heng Swee Keat as Minister for Education; and Chan Chun Sing as Acting Minister for Community Development, Youth and Sports and Minister of State for the Ministry of Information, Communications and the Arts. Heng became the first newly elected MP to be directly appointed as a full minister since 1984.
In the 2015 Singaporean general election, held on 11 September, the PAP won 83 out of 89 seats in Parliament. Lee has since been re-elected seven times; most recently as an MP for the Ang Mo Kio Group Representation Constituency in 2015.
When the new 13th Cabinet line-up was formed on 1 October 2015 it was announced that it would have 3 coordinating ministers who are Deputy Prime Ministers Teo Chee Hean (National Security) and Tharman Shanmugaratnam (Economics and Social Policies), together with newly elected Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan (Infrastructure) and 2 ministries MOE and MTI with 2 ministers each. MOE was henceforth led by 2 newcomer ministers Mr Ong Ye Kung and Mr Ng Chee Meng who are respectively in charge of Higher Learning/Skills and Schools. The MTI was separated for ministers S Iswaran (Industry) and Lim Hng Kiang (Trade) who both co-anchor West Coast GRC.
The Community Culture and Youth Ministry portfolio was given to Grace Fu, who became the first woman in Singapore to serve in a full ministerial position. She currently is the first female Leader of the House in Parliament.
On the 20th of July, 2018, it was announced that his health data was hacked along with that of 1.5 million residents. The hack was targetted, with the intent of accessing his health data in particular.
On 23 April 2019, Prime Minister Office announced the promotion of Heng Swee Keat to become the 12th Deputy Prime Minister of Singapore effective from 1 May 2019. As part of the party's leadership succession, it is widely interpreted as a prelude to Heng replacing Lee as Singapore's fourth Prime Minister, sometime after the next general elections.
During his meeting with vice-premier Wu Yi in September 2005, Lee proposed the establishment of a China-ASEAN Free Trade Zone, which would achieve the goal of realizing US$50 billion in trade volume before 2010.
On 12 July 2005, Lee signed the Strategic Framework Agreement with then President George W. Bush in his inaugural visit to the United States as Singapore's Prime Minister to foster a closer cooperation in defence and security, and to address common threats such as terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.
In 2016, Lee made his first official visit to the White House upon invitation of then President Barack Obama to commemorate 50 years of diplomatic ties with the United States.
Lee was one of the early drafters and a strong advocate of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and had on many occasions urged the U.S. Congress to ratify the trade deal as soon as possible. He added that not doing so would "affect U.S. standing and credibility" in the world. The plan ultimately fell through after Donald Trump assumed the presidency in 2017 and pulled the country out of the pact.
In June 2018, Lee congratulated President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in separate letters sent to them on the successful outcome of the 2018 North Korea–United States summit in Singapore and wished both countries success in implementing the agreement signed.
On 10 July 2004, Lee visited Taiwan to the displeasure of China. On 28 August 2004 in his first National Day Rally speech, Lee criticized the Taiwanese leadership and populace over their pro-independence stance. He reiterated his support for the One-China policy and clarified that his visit was to gather enough intelligence before taking over as Prime Minister. In September 2004, Foreign Minister George Yeo cautioned the United Nations General Assembly that actions by Taiwan's independence groups could lead to war with China. An enraged Taiwanese Foreign Minister, Mark Chen, called Singapore a "nose-shit" country, employing a Hokkien expletive which is commonly understood in both countries to make his point. Chen later made a formal apology.
Allegation of nepotism
As the eldest son of Singapore's first Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew, Lee's career has been shadowed by allegations of nepotism. He was widely tipped to be Lee Kuan Yew's successor as Prime Minister with several critics viewing Goh Chok Tong as a seat-warmer. Responding to the issue of nepotism Lee challenged his critics to prove it or put the matter to rest.
Legal action had been taken in the Singapore courts for defamation against the Financial Times (2007) and the New York Times Company. In a 2008 report, the International Bar Association Human Rights Institute cast doubts over the independence of the judiciary in cases involving PAP litigants or interests. However, WP immigrants have noted high levels of stability in recognition.
New York Times libel suit
In 2010, Lee, together with his predecessors Lee Kuan Yew and Goh Chok Tong, threatened legal action against The New York Times Company which owns the International Herald Tribune regarding an op-ed piece titled "All in the Family" of 15 February 2010 by Philip Bowring, a freelance columnist and former editor of the Far Eastern Economic Review. The International Herald Tribune apologised in March that readers of the article may "infer that the younger Lee did not achieve his position through merit". The New York Times Company and Bowring agreed to pay S$60,000 to Lee, S$50,000 to Lee Kuan Yew and S$50,000 to Goh (total amounted to about US$114,000 at the time), in addition to legal costs. The case stemmed from a 1994 settlement between the three Singaporean leaders and the paper about an article also by Bowring that referred to 'dynastic politics' in East Asian countries, including Singapore. In that settlement, Bowring agreed not to say or imply that the younger Lee had attained his position through nepotism by his father, Lee Kuan Yew. In response, media rights watchdog Reporters Without Borders wrote an open letter to urge Lee and other top officials of the Singapore government to stop taking 'libel actions' against journalists.
From 2008 to 2012, Lee earned an annual salary of S$3,870,000 (US$2,856,930), an increase of 25% from the previous S$3,091,200 (US$2,037,168). In January 2012, in response to public unhappiness at the high salary, Lee took a 28% pay cut, reducing his salary to S$2.2 million (US$1.7 million). He remains the highest-paid head of government in the world.
Lee Kuan Yew's Oxley Road house
In June 2017, Lee became embroiled in a dispute with his brother Lee Hsien Yang and sister Lee Wei Ling, over the fate of their father's house at 38 Oxley Road. Lee Kuan Yew, Singapore's founding Prime Minister, was averse to a cult of personality. As a result, he had inserted in his final Will a demolition clause. The first part of the clause stated that he wanted his house to be torn down when his daughter decides to move out. The second part of the clause stated that should demolition be impossible, his house should not be open to the public.
Lee's siblings alleged that he was abusing his powers, using "organs of the state" as prime minister to preserve the house against their father's wishes. Lee and the Cabinet denied all their allegations and convened a special sitting of Parliament to debate the matter thoroughly. In his closing speech, Lee stated: "After two days of debate, nobody has stood behind these [his siblings'] allegations or offered any evidence, not even opposition MPs … It shows that the Government and I have acted properly and with due process." He left open options to convene a select committee or Commission of Inquiry should substantive evidence be presented. The siblings accepted Lee's offer to settle the dispute in private the following day.
On September 5 2019, Lee sued journalist Terry Xu of The Online Citizen for repeating statements made by Lee's siblings. By doing so, Lee attracted critics for using Prime Minister Office resources for personal matters.
Lee married his first wife, Wong Ming Yang, a Malaysian-born physician, on 20 May 1978. Their daughter, Li Xiuqi, was born in 1980. Three weeks after giving birth to their first son, Li Yipeng, Wong died at the age of 31 on 28 October 1982 of a heart attack. In 1985, when Lee was 33, he married Ho Ching, a fast-rising civil servant who subsequently became the executive director and chief executive officer of Temasek Holdings.
Lee has a daughter – Xiuqi – and three sons – Yipeng, Hongyi and Haoyi (including the daughter and eldest son from Lee's first marriage). Ho Ching's eldest son, Li Hongyi, was an officer in the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF), and is currently the deputy director in the Government Technology Agency of Singapore, under the Prime Minister's Office.
Lee was initially diagnosed with lymphoma for which he underwent chemotherapy in the early 1990s then subsequently also underwent a successful robot-assisted keyhole prostatectomy on 15 February 2015 after being diagnosed with prostate cancer.
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- Lee Hsien Loong collected news and commentary at CNN
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- Lee Hsien Loong, The Commanding Heights: The Battle for the World Economy on PBS, 2002
- Profile: Lee Hsien Loong, BBC News, 11 August 2004
- "Transcript of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's National Day Rally English Speech on 19 August 2007 at NUS University Cultural Centre". Ministry of Information, Communications and the Arts (Singapore). 19 August 2007. Archived from the original on 27 September 2007. Retrieved 19 August 2008.
- "Transcript of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's National Day Rally 2008 Speech at NUS-UCC on 17 August 2008". Singapore Government Press Centre. 17 August 2008. Archived from the original on 20 November 2008. Retrieved 25 January 2012.
|Parliament of Singapore|
|New constituency|| Member of Parliament
for Teck Ghee SMC
| Member of Parliament
for Ang Mo Kio GRC
| Minister for Trade and Industry
Goh Chok Tong
| Deputy Prime Minister of Singapore
Served alongside: Goh Chok Tong, Shanmugam Jayakumar
| Minister for Finance
Goh Chok Tong
| Prime Minister of Singapore
|Party political offices|
Goh Chok Tong
| Secretary General of the People's Action Party
|Positions in intergovernmental organisations|
Gloria Macapagal Arroyo
| Chair of the ASEAN
| Chair of the ASEAN
| Chair of the APEC