Tang Liang Hong
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Tang stood as a candidate for the opposition Workers' Party in the Cheng San Group Representation Constituency at the 1997 general election. The Worker's Party team in the constituency was defeated by the team from the governing People's Action Party (PAP) by 45.2% of the votes to 54.8%.
During the election campaign, Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong accused Tang of being an anti-Christian and anti-Muslim Chinese chauvinist. After the election, Tang was sued for defamation by several of the PAP's leaders, who accused him of making statements during the campaign which unreasonably questioned their integrity. Tang fled to Australia soon after the election and has not returned to Singapore since then. The plaintiffs in the lawsuits obtained default judgements against Tang in all their suits.
Tang was born in 1935 to parents who came from agricultural backgrounds. He was one of eight children in his family. He started his formal education only at the age of 13, when he began attending Yeung Ching Primary School in 1949. He graduated from high school in 1957. He then began studying at Nanyang University in 1962, and moved to the University of Singapore the following year. He graduated in 1967 and joined the bar a year later at the age of 38.
1997 general election
Tang stood as a candidate for the Workers' Party in Cheng San the Group Representation Constituency at the 1997 general election. The party's team in the constituency also included the party's leader, former Member of Parliament J.B. Jeyaretnam.
During the election campaign, Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong accused Tang of being a Chinese chauvinist because of comments Tang had made at other public events in the past. Goh stated that he was therefore making himself "a special candidate" in Cheng San GRC (even though it was not his constituency) because he felt that Tang must be kept out of Parliament if Singapore's inter-racial harmony was to be protected. Tang insisted that all he had ever tried to do was to "better represent the Chinese community and ask questions on their behalf". He vigorously denied that he was a Chinese chauvinist and accused the PAP of trying to win votes by sowing fear into the electorate.
Tang also came under fire from the PAP after he raised the issue of the Hotel Properties Ltd case during the election campaign. This issue arose after the Stock Exchange of Singapore had previously criticised Hotel Properties Ltd for its "tardiness" in disclosing details of sales of its condominium units to directors and their family members. Former Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew, who had purchased one of the units and whose brother was a director of Hotel Properties Ltd, claimed that Tang was trying to smear his name and milk this issue for political capital.
On election day, the Worker's Party's team in Cheng San GRC lost to the PAP's team by 44,132 votes (45.2%) to 53,553 (54.8%). This was the highest percentage of the vote garnered by any opposition losing candidates, and was therefore enough to secure one of the team's members a seat as a Non-Constituency Member of Parliament (NCMP). The party selected Jeyaretnam to become its NCMP.
Post-election legal action
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After the election, Tang was sued for defamation by several of the PAP's leaders, including Goh, Lee and Deputy Prime Ministers Lee Hsien Loong and Tony Tan, who accused him of making statements during the campaign which falsely questioned their integrity. A total of 13 judgements were entered against Tang for defamation.
Tang left Singapore for Johor, Malaysia, shortly after the election. His wife's passport was then impounded but later released. Eventually Tang found refuge in Australia, where he was reunited with his wife.
After Tang left Singapore, the plaintiffs in the lawsuits obtained the Mareva injunction against him to restrain him from disposing of assets and to require him to disclose the whereabouts of his assets. When Tang failed to file an affidavit disclosing his assets, the plaintiffs obtained default judgements against Tang in all their suits. Damages were assessed by a judge of the High Court at a total of $8,075,000. Tang's appeals against the default judgements were argued by the British Queen's Counsel Charles Gray before the Court of Appeal in September 1997, but was unsuccessful.
Tang has not returned to Singapore since 1997 and continues to live in Australia.
- Ven Sreenivasan and Michelle Low, "Analysts support SES censure of HPL," in: Business Times, 24 April 1996, p. 15
- Warren Fernandez, "Full details of condo deals revealed," The Straits Times, 22 May 1996, p.1
- "Worldwide court injunction taken out against Tang and wife". The Straits Times (Singapore: Singapore Press Holdings). 28 January 1997. p. 1. "Justice Lai Kew Chai has given his approval today to an order of court dated Jan 27 for a worldwide Mareva injunction and ancillary action up to the value of S$11.2 million in the actions of Messrs Goh Chok Tong, Lee Kuan Yew, BG Lee Hsien Loong, Dr Tony Tan Keng Yam, Teo Chee Hean, Ch'ng Jit Koon, Ow Chin Hock, Chin Harn Tong, Ker Sin Tze, Seng Han Thong and Lee Yock Suan against Tang Liang Hong and Madam Teo Siew Har"
- "Tony Tan also suing Tang for defaming him in report". The Straits Times (Singapore: Singapore Press Holdings). 25 January 1997. p. 1. "The suits over Mr Tang's police report are separate from the three defamation actions by PM Goh, SM Lee, and six other PAP members for his comment that they had concocted lies against him."
- "Tang's case". The Straits Times (Singapore: Singapore Press Holdings). 9 March 1997. p. 4. "13 defamation suits filed against him by 11 People's Action Party"
- "Lawyers' 'last hero'". The Straits Times (Singapore: Singapore Press Holdings). 31 May 1997. p. 32. "The beleaguered Mr Tang faces an arrest warrant for evading taxes"
- "Tang's wife can apply to get her passport back". The Straits Times (Singapore: Singapore Press Holdings). 4 June 1997. p. 19. "MADAM TEO SIEW HAR, the wife of Mr Tang Liang Hong, is now free to travel and can apply to get back her passport"
- "SM Lee's application basis for Mareva injunction'". The Straits Times (Singapore: Singapore Press Holdings). 29 April 1997. p. 25.
- "Tang Liang Hong declared a bankrupt". The Straits Times (Singapore: Singapore Press Holdings). 7 February 1998. p. 3. "THE High Court yesterday declared Workers' Party member Tang Liang Hong a bankrupt, when he failed to pay $739,976 in damages and interest he owed after losing the defamation cases brought against him"
- Life on the run by James Gomez (4 April 2000)
- Worker's Party history 1991 to 2000
- "The politics of judicial institutions in Singapore"
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