Lee San Choon

Lee San Choon (Chinese: 李三春; pinyin: Lǐ Sānchūn) 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
Member of the Malaysian Parliament for Seremban
In office
26 April 1982  24 March 1983
Preceded byChen Man Hin
Succeeded byChen Man Hin
Majority845 (1982)
Member of the Malaysian Parliament for Segamat
In office
14 September 1974  21 April 1982
Preceded byNew constituency
Succeeded bySubramaniam Sinniah
Majority11,398 (1974)
17,318 (1978)
Member of the Malaysian Parliament for Segamat Selatan
In office
25 April 1964  13 September 1974
Preceded byTeoh Chze Chong
Succeeded byConstituency abolished
Majority6,399 (1964)
9,287 (1969)
Member of the Malayan/Malaysian Parliament for Kluang Utara
In office
19 August 1959  2 April 1964
Preceded byConstituency established
Succeeded byTiah Eng Bee
Majority1,455 (1959)
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)
Children1 son and 1 daughter
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 claimed 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]


Honours of Malaysia


  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.
  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. "Semakan Penerima Darjah Kebesaran, Bintang dan Pingat".
Political offices
Preceded by
Tan Siew Sin
Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA) President
August 1975 – 25 March 1983
Succeeded by
Tan Koon Swan
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