Chan Heng Chee
|Chan Heng Chee
Chan in 2002
19 April 1942 |
|Alma mater||University of Singapore
|Title||Ambassador of Singapore to the United States|
|Term||July 1996 – July 2012|
|Spouse(s)||Tay Kheng Soon|
|Chan Heng Chee|
During her tenure, bilateral relations between Singapore and the US improved tremendously. In May 2003, Singapore and US signed the US-Singapore Free Trade Agreement (USSFTA), the first FTA that the US entered into with a Southeast Asian country. Both countries also enhanced their ties in areas of defence and security.
Chan graduated with a first-class honours degree in political science from the University of Singapore (now the National University of Singapore) in 1964, and went on to study for a M.A. degree from Cornell University in 1967. She received a PhD from the University of Singapore in 1974. Her thesis has the title: The Dynamics of One-party Dominance: A Study of Five Singapore Constituencies.
Chan was previously the Executive Director of the Singapore International Foundation and served as Director of the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies. She was also the founding Director of the Institute of Policy Studies.
Chan was a member of the International Advisory Board of the New York-based Council on Foreign Relations, a council member of the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) in London, and a council member of the International Council of the Asia Society in New York.
Chan has received a number of awards, including honorary Doctor of Letters degrees from the University of Newcastle in 1994 and the University of Buckingham in 1998. She is also a political science professor on secondment at the National University of Singapore.
Chan served as Singapore's Permanent Representative to the United Nations from 1989 to 1991. During this time, she was concurrently accredited as the High Commissioner to Canada and Ambassador to Mexico. She became the Ambassador to the United States in 1996. At the time, she was the first woman ambassador from an East Asian country to be assigned to the United States. Chan expressed surprise at her appointment, noting "I'm antiestablishment and was a bit of a dissident before I was appointed ambassador. It came as something of a shock to me when I was offered the ambassadorship because I was highly critical of government in a society that is not used to being critiqued."
Like Tharman Shanmugaratnam, Ho Kwon Ping and other former political critics, Chan is part of a small group of well-educated dissidents who have subsequently been appointed into high-profile positions in the People's Action Party (PAP)-dominated Singapore government, or who have otherwise become part of the establishment.
In 1998, Chan received the Inaugural International Woman of the Year Award from the Organization of Chinese American Women (OCAW), and Singapore's first "Woman of the Year" award in 1991. Chan received Singapore's Meritorious Service Medal in 2005 and the Distinguished Service Order, the highest National Day Award, in August 2011.
During October 2012, in relation to a discussion on the choice Asian nations may have in terms of supporting China or the US, Chan was quoted as saying, "The United States should not ask Asian countries to choose. You may not like the results if you ask countries to choose."
In October 2015, Chan's call to retain the Chinese-Malay-Indian-Others framework as it "sets minority communities here at ease" sparked a debate, with a Malay Singaporean finding her "very wrong. She is from [the] majority and she is elite. She doesn't represent us". An online poll on Dialectic.sg found a majority of 52.8% of the respondents in favour of abandoning such racial categorisation.
In November 2015, Chan spoke at the Singapore International Film Festival (SGIFF) to defend the National Arts Council (NAC)'s censorship policies, prompting calls to boycott the NAC. Chan, NAC's chairman, did not warn the organisers, the strictly no-censorship SGIFF, of her talk's contents. Notably, NAC does not even oversee or supervise Singapore's film industry.
In February 2016, Chan, who is on the Yale-NUS College governing board, delivered a speech defending Singapore's decision to uphold Section 377A at the 24th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council's Universal Periodic Review in Geneva, Switzerland. Her speech prompted students' calls for Chan's removal from the school's governing board, while others said a removal would be unfair because Chan was speaking as a Singaporean ambassador, not as a governor of the college. The school rejected calls to remove her.
Chan's father was a businessman. She has two brothers and a sister. Her brother Alan Chan was a top civil servant and the current CEO of Singapore Press Holdings while the other brother Chan Heng Wing is also a diplomat and currently serves as Singapore’s Ambassador to the Republic of Austria. She was formerly married to architect Tay Kheng Soon.
- Washington Life Magazine: December 2004: verbatim
- "Chan Heng Chee Is Wrong – CMIO Categorisation Is Only PAP's Tool To Subjugate And Discriminate Against The Minorities". Rilek1Corner. Retrieved 10 February 2016.
- Tham, Yuen-C (5 October 2015). "Race categorisation puts minority communities at ease: Chan Heng Chee". Singapore Press Holdings. The Straits Times. Retrieved 10 February 2016.
- "Should Singapore retain or stop using the Chinese-Malay-Indian-Others framework?". DialecticSG. Retrieved 10 February 2016.
- Gerard, Clarabelle. "Another fracas over Arts Funding: But where are the alternatives?". The Middle Ground. Retrieved 10 February 2016.
- Xu, Qi (5 February 2016). "Yale-NUS admin speech sparks debate". Yale Daily News. Retrieved 10 February 2016.
- Heng, Janice (7 February 2016). "Yale-NUS rejects call on envoy to quit post". Singapore Press Holdings. The Straits Times. Retrieved 10 February 2016.
- "1991 PROFESSOR CHAN HENG CHEE HER WORLD WOMAN OF THE YEAR". Her World Plus. Retrieved 29 July 2017.
- "Singapore appoints new representatives to Austria, Bangladesh". Channel NewsAsia. 2017-04-27. Retrieved 29 July 2017.
- "Chan Heng Chee". Singapore Infopedia.