Low Thia Khiang

Low Thia Khiang (simplified Chinese: 刘程强; traditional Chinese: 劉程強; pinyin: Liú Chéngqiáng; Pe̍h-ōe-jī: Lâu Thiâⁿ-kiàng; born 5 September 1956) is a Singaporean politician and businessman.


Low Thia Khiang
刘程强
Low Thia Khiang 2011.JPG
Low Thia Khiang in 2011
9th Leader of the Opposition
In office
2 November 2006 – 8 April 2018
Prime MinisterLee Hsien Loong (PAP)
Preceded byChiam See Tong (SDA)
Succeeded byPritam Singh (WP)
ConstituencyAljunied GRC
Hougang SMC
9th Secretary-General of the Workers' Party of Singapore
In office
27 May 2001 – 8 April 2018
ChairmanSylvia Lim
AssistantPritam Singh
Preceded byJoshua Benjamin Jeyaretnam
Succeeded byPritam Singh
ConstituencyAljunied GRC
Hougang SMC
Member of the Singapore Parliament
for Aljunied GRC
(Bedok Reservoir–Punggol)
In office
7 May 2011 – 23 June 2020
Preceded byGeorge Yeo (PAP)
Succeeded byGerald Giam (WP)
Majority2,626 (1.92%)
Member of the Singapore Parliament
for Hougang SMC
In office
31 August 1991 – 6 May 2011
Preceded byTang Guan Seng (PAP)
Succeeded byYaw Shin Leong (WP)
Majority5,681 (25.40%)
Personal details
Born5 September 1956 (1956-09-05) (age 64)
Colony of Singapore
Political partyWorkers' Party of Singapore (1991–present)
Spouse(s)
Han Mui Keow
(m. 1982)
Children3
Alma materNanyang University
National University of Singapore
ProfessionPolitician, businessman, teacher
Low Thia Khiang
Traditional Chinese劉程強
Simplified Chinese刘程强

He was first elected as a Member of Parliament of Hougang SMC during the 1991 general election and became secretary-general of the Workers' Party (WP) on 27 May 2001. He served as one of two opposition MPs alongside Singapore People's Party's Chiam See Tong between 2001 and 2011 and was the unofficial opposition leader from 2 November 2006 to 8 April 2018.[1][2]

During the 2011 general election, he led the party to a historic breakthrough when his team captured the first group representation constituency from the ruling People's Action Party. He became one of five elected opposition MPs of Aljunied GRC in the 13th Parliament and represented the Bedok Reservoir–Punggol division from 7 May 2011 to 23 June 2020.

As part of a leadership renewal, Low was succeeded by Pritam Singh as secretary general in 2018, and also stepped down as an MP prior to the 2020 general election, making him Singapore's longest serving opposition Member of Parliament with 29 years in service.[3][4] He has indicated his desire to remain active in politics.[5]

Early lifeEdit

Low studied at Lik Teck Primary School and Chung Cheng High School before he attended Nanyang University, where he majored in Chinese language and literature, and government and public administration. In 1981, he completed a Bachelor of Arts (Honours) in Chinese studies at the National University of Singapore. In 1982, he completed a diploma in education. He worked as a teacher for a few years before starting his own business.[6]

Political careerEdit

Low joined the Workers' Party (WP) in 1982, and was subsequently appointed as its Organising Secretary. At the 1984 general election, he was the election agent for the party's secretary-general, J. B. Jeyaretnam, in his successful campaign to win Anson constituency.

Low is well known for giving speeches in Teochew[7], which have won him much support from a large number of Teochew-speaking residents in Hougang Single Member Constituency.[8]

In the 2016 Workers' Party Central Executive Committee (CEC) elections, Low's position of secretary-general was contended by fellow Aljunied MP Chen Show Mao. This was the first time Low was challenged for the post since he took it up in 2001. Low retained his seat with 61 votes, to Chen's 45. Chen remains in the CEC as a member.[9]

Low announced at his party's 60th anniversary dinner that he would not be contesting for the post of secretary-general for the 2018 party elections and would step down to renew leadership in WP after being at its helm for 17 years.[10] Low formally stepped down as WP chief on 8 April 2018. Chan Chun Sing, the Minister for Trade and Industry, subsequently praised Low at a Parliament sitting on 15 May 2018 for the role he played in Parliament, acknowledging him as "a fellow Singaporean and very much part of Team Singapore", and that while the PAP may not always agree with Low's perspectives or methods, the PAP nevertheless appreciate(d) his efforts to work together to build a better Singapore.[11]

1988 General ElectionEdit

In 1988, Low represented the WP in a televised debate with the PAP government on proposals to create an elected Presidency for Singapore, during which he engaged Ong Teng Cheong and Lee Hsien Loong, who later became the President and Prime Minister of Singapore respectively. In the general election later that year, Low, together with Gopalan Nair and Lim Lye Soon, contested the Group Representation Constituency (GRC) of Tiong Bahru against only the PAP and finished second with 42.2% of the vote.[12]

1991 General ElectionEdit

In 1991, Low, as the Workers' Party's assistant secretary-general, won the single-member constituency (SMC) of Hougang in the 1991 general election and entered Parliament. In 1992, Low was appointed by Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong as a member of the Cost Review Committee. After a year of intensive study, Low decided to produce his own independent report as he had a different perspective from the other members of the committee.[13]

1997 General ElectionEdit

Low was re-elected as the MP for Hougang SMC at the 1997 general election, his second election victory in Hougang.[14]

2001 General ElectionEdit

On 27 May 2001, Low became the secretary-general of the Workers' Party, replacing J. B. Jeyaretnam. He was re-elected again as the MP for Hougang at the 2001 general election.[15]

2006 General ElectionEdit

At the 2006 general elections, Low won his fourth straight term for the Hougang constituency. He received 13,987 of the votes cast, a 62.74 per cent victory margin which was an increase of 7.74% from the last general election in November 2001. His opponent from the People's Action Party, Eric Low, received 8,306 votes.[16]

2011 General ElectionEdit

 
Low Thia Khiang at a Workers' Party general election rally, Sengkang, Singapore
 
Low Thia Khiang at a Workers' Party general election rally, Bedok Stadium, Singapore.

Between 1997 and 2011, Low and Chiam See Tong were the only elected opposition Members of Parliament (MP) in Parliament.

During the 2011 general election, Low and Chiam left their respective strongholds in Hougang and Potong Pasir SMC to challenge the ruling PAP in Group Representation Constituencies (GRCs). Low would challenge the ruling PAP in Aljunied GRC, while Chiam would contest the Bishan–Toa Payoh GRC. In so doing, Low and Chiam risked a situation where there would be no elected opposition MPs in Parliament had they lost.[17]

Low's gambit paid off as he led the Workers' Party to a historic breakthrough in the election, with a victory in Aljunied GRC.[18] The win marked the first time that an opposition party won a GRC. As a result of the victory, the Workers' Party had a total of six elected MPs in Parliament, including the seat in Hougang SMC (which was retained by Low's party member, Yaw Shin Leong).[19][20]

2015 General ElectionEdit

At the 2015 general election, Low and his team won and retained their seats in Aljunied GRC. However, the team's votes share decreased to 50.96%, a drop of 3.76%, with a narrow margin of 1.9% (2,626 votes). As the margin was within the 2% range, there was a recount. This was Low's sixth continuous win as an elected opposition MP (four in Hougang SMC and two in Aljunied GRC). He is one of few elected opposition MPs to successfully defend a GRC as an incumbent; he also tied with Chiam for electing the most number of times for an opposition candidate, with six terms.[21]

2020: Post-political careerEdit

On 30 April 2020, Low was hospitalised at an intensive care unit in Khoo Teck Puat Hospital as a result of a head injury.[22] On 4 May, Low was transferred to the general ward,[23] and remained until he was discharged on 21 May. [24] The fall affected his olfactory nerve centre, robbing him his sense of smell.[25] While still recuperating, Workers' Party announced that Low, along with Chen Show Mao and Png Eng Huat would not contest in the 2020 Singaporean general election in a move to " to broaden its leadership base and also remain in touch with the ground as Singapore’s population changes".[26]

In interviews following the decision not to contest, Low stated that it is be unlikely he would make a political comeback in the future.[27] Low felt that he had achieved his goals of securing a group representation constituency, which he did with the 2011 Singaporean general election, and to renew the party leadership.[28] Low would remain involved with the party in a mentoring role, advising the present leadership when asked.[27]

Electoral recordEdit

General Election 1988: Tiong Bahru GRC[29]
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
PAP Ch'ng Jit Koon
Chng Hee Kok
S Vasoo
31,732 57.8 N/A
WP Lim Lye Soon
Low Thia Khiang
Gopalan Nair Pallichadath
23,132 42.2 N/A
Turnout 55,663 94.5% N/A
PAP win (new seat)
General Election 1991: Hougang
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
WP Low Thia Khiang 10,621 52.8 +11.8
PAP Tang Guan Seng 9,487 47.2 -11.8
Majority 1,134 5.6 +23.6
Turnout 20,566 95.8 -0.4
WP gain from PAP Swing +11.8
General Election 1997: Hougang
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
WP Low Thia Khiang 13,458 58.0 +5.2
PAP Heng Chee How 9,736 42.0 -5.2
Majority 3,722 16.0 +10.4
Turnout 23,505 96.2 +0.4
WP hold Swing +5.2
General Election 2001: Hougang
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
WP Low Thia Khiang 12,070 55.0 -3.0
PAP Eric Low Siak Meng 9,882 45.0 +3.0
Majority 2,188 10.0 -6.0
Turnout 22,247 95.4 -0.8
WP hold Swing -3.0
General Election 2006: Hougang
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
WP Low Thia Khiang 13,989 62.7 +7.7
PAP Eric Low Siak Meng 8,308 37.3 -7.7
Majority 5,681 25.4 +15.4
Turnout 22,574 95.0 -0.4
WP hold Swing +7.7
General Election 2011: Aljunied GRC
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
WP Chen Show Mao
Sylvia Lim Swee Lian
Low Thia Khiang
Muhamad Faisal Manap
Pritam Singh
72,289 54.72 +10.81
PAP Lim Hwee Hua
Ong Ye Kung
Cynthia Phua
George Yong-Boon Yeo
Zainul Abidin Bin Mohamed Rasheed
59,829 45.28 -10.81
Majority 12,460 9.4
Turnout 133,906 93.5 -0.1
WP gain from PAP Swing +10.8
General Election 2015: Aljunied GRC
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
WP Chen Show Mao
Sylvia Lim
Low Thia Khiang
Muhamad Faisal bin Abdul Manap
Pritam Singh
70,050 50.96 -3.76
PAP Chua Eng Leong
K Muralidharan Pillai
Lye Thiam Fatt Joseph Victor
Shamsul Kamar bin Mohamed Razali
Yeo Guat Kwang
67,424 49.04 +3.76
Majority 2,626 1.9 -7.5
Turnout 138,474 93.8 +0.3
WP hold Swing -3.76

Personal lifeEdit

Low first met Han Mui Keow while they were students at Chung Cheng High School in 1973. They were married in 1982 and had two sons and a daughter. He is a Buddhist.

On 30 April 2020, he suffered a head injury from a fall at his home and was hospitalised at Khoo Teck Puat Hospital.[30] He was discharged on 21 May.[31]

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ "Low Thia Khiang: From teacher to opposition icon". www.todayonline.com. Archived from the original on 2017-11-12. Retrieved 2017-11-26.
  2. ^ "Lee family feud is a serious matter, not a 'Korean drama show': Low Thia Khiang". Archived from the original on 2017-12-01. Retrieved 2017-11-26.
  3. ^ "Low Thia Khiang is longest-serving opposition MP in S'pore's history at 28 years & counting". mothership.sg. Archived from the original on 2020-05-15. Retrieved 2020-07-12.
  4. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2011-06-16. Retrieved 2011-06-12.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  5. ^ "Low, Chen and Png stepping down". The Straits Times. 25 June 2020. Archived from the original on 26 June 2020. Retrieved 25 June 2020.
  6. ^ "Curriculum Vitae". Parliament of Singapore. Archived from the original on 2012-03-20. Retrieved 2011-04-02.
  7. ^ Tan, Audrey (2020-07-09). "Singapore GE2020: WP's Low Thia Khiang delivers trademark Teochew speech in video". The Straits Times. Archived from the original on 2020-09-19. Retrieved 2020-08-14.
  8. ^ Ong, Tanya (2020-06-26). "Why Hougang SMC, the longest-held opposition ward in S'pore, is significant in GE2020". mothership.sg. Archived from the original on 2020-07-15. Retrieved 2020-08-15.
  9. ^ "Workers' Party chief Low Thia Khiang retains post after challenge by Chen Show Mao at party's internal election". The Straits Times. May 29, 2016. Archived from the original on January 2, 2020. Retrieved September 16, 2019.
  10. ^ "Workers' Party chief Low Thia Khiang to step down as secretary-general by next party election". CNA. Archived from the original on 2017-11-17. Retrieved 2019-09-16.
  11. ^ hermes (2018-05-15). "Minister thanks opposition veteran Low Thia Khiang". The Straits Times. Archived from the original on 2018-05-25. Retrieved 2018-06-05.
  12. ^ "Singapore Parliamentary General Election 1988 > Tiong Bahru GRC". www.singapore-elections.com. Archived from the original on 2019-03-04. Retrieved 2017-12-13.
  13. ^ "Singapore Parliamentary General Election 1991 > Hougang". www.singapore-elections.com. Archived from the original on 2019-03-04. Retrieved 2017-12-13.
  14. ^ "Singapore Parliamentary General Election 1997 > Hougang". www.singapore-elections.com. Archived from the original on 2019-03-04. Retrieved 2017-12-13.
  15. ^ "Singapore Parliamentary General Election 2001". www.singapore-elections.com. Archived from the original on 2017-12-13. Retrieved 2017-12-13.
  16. ^ "WP chief Low Thia Khiang wins fourth term as Hougang MP". AsiaOne. Archived from the original on 2012-10-14. Retrieved 2010-11-13.
  17. ^ "Stakes and risk very high for opposition: WP chief". 2011-05-01. Archived from the original on 2011-05-01. Retrieved 2020-06-23.
  18. ^ "PAP wins General Election, loses Aljunied GRC". www.asiaone.com. Archived from the original on 2017-10-29. Retrieved 2020-06-23.
  19. ^ Lim, Kenneth. "2011: PAP loses Aljunied GRC to WP". The Business Times. Archived from the original on 2017-12-13. Retrieved 2017-12-13.
  20. ^ "WP wins Aljunied GRC, makes key breakthrough". Archived from the original on 2017-12-13. Retrieved 2017-12-13.
  21. ^ hermesauto (2015-09-12). "GE2O15: Workers' Party retains Aljunied GRC with 50.95 per cent of the vote". The Straits Times. Archived from the original on 2017-12-13. Retrieved 2017-12-13.
  22. ^ "Former WP chief Low Thia Khiang conscious and recovering in ICU after fall at home". Straits Times. 24 June 2020. Archived from the original on 3 May 2020. Retrieved 3 May 2020.
  23. ^ hermesauto (2020-05-05). "Former WP chief Low Thia Khiang out of ICU after 5 days following fall, now in general ward". The Straits Times. Archived from the original on 2020-06-28. Retrieved 2020-07-12.
  24. ^ "Workers' Party MP Low Thia Khiang discharged from hospital following fall at home". Straits Times. 22 May 2020. Archived from the original on 22 May 2020. Retrieved 24 June 2020.
  25. ^ hermesauto (2020-06-25). "Singapore GE2020: 'I felt my work was done', says former WP chief Low Thia Khiang who will not stand in election". The Straits Times. Archived from the original on 2020-06-26. Retrieved 2020-07-12.
  26. ^ "Singapore GE2020: Workers' Party's Low Thia Khiang, Chen Show Mao and Png Eng Huat step down, will not contest next GE". Straits Times. Archived from the original on 27 June 2020. Retrieved 25 June 2020.
  27. ^ a b "GE2020: Political comeback unlikely, says former Workers' Party chief Low Thia Khiang". CNA. Archived from the original on 2020-06-27. Retrieved 2020-06-27.
  28. ^ hermesauto (2020-06-25). "Singapore GE2020: 'I felt my work was done', says former WP chief Low Thia Khiang who will not stand in election". The Straits Times. Archived from the original on 2020-06-26. Retrieved 2020-07-12.
  29. ^ "Singapore Parliamentary General Election 1988 > Tiong Bahru GRC". singapore-elections.com. Archived from the original on 2019-03-04. Retrieved 2017-10-19.
  30. ^ Koh, Fabian (3 May 2020). "Former WP chief Low Thia Khiang conscious and recovering in ICU after fall at home". The Straits Times. Singapore. OCLC 8572659. Archived from the original on 3 May 2020. Retrieved 3 May 2020.
  31. ^ Koh, Fabian (22 May 2020). "Workers' Party MP Low Thia Khiang discharged from hospital following fall at home". The Straits Times. OCLC 8572659. Archived from the original on 22 May 2020. Retrieved 23 May 2020.
Parliament of Singapore
Preceded by
Chiam See Tong
Unofficial Leader of the Opposition
2006–2018
Succeeded by
Pritam Singh
Preceded by
Tang Guan Seng
Member of Parliament for Hougang
1991 – 2011
Succeeded by
Yaw Shin Leong
Preceded by
George Yeo
Member of Parliament for Aljunied GRC
(Bedok Reservoir–Punggol)

2011 – 2020
Succeeded by
Gerald Giam
Party political offices
Preceded by
J.B. Jeyaretnam
Secretary-General of the Workers' Party
2001 – 2018
Succeeded by
Pritam Singh