Wee Chong Jin DUBC (28 September 1915 – 5 June 2005) was a Singaporean judge and the first Chief Justice of the country. Born in Penang, Malaysia, he was the first Asian lawyer to be appointed a judge at the Supreme Court of Singapore. He served in the position of Chief Justice for 27 years, making him the longest-serving chief justice in the Commonwealth.

Wee Chong Jin

1st Chief Justice of Singapore
In office
5 January 1963 – 27 September 1990
Appointed byYusof Ishak
Preceded bySir Alan Rose
(Chief Justice of British Colonial Singapore)
Succeeded byYong Pung How
Head, Presidential Council for Religious Harmony
In office
President of Singapore
In office
28 March 1985 – 29 March 1985
Prime MinisterLee Kuan Yew
Preceded byDevan Nair (President)
Succeeded byYeoh Ghim Seng (President)
Personal details
Born(1915-09-28)28 September 1915
Penang, Malaysia
(then the Straits Settlements)
Died5 June 2005(2005-06-05) (aged 89)
Cause of deathLung and Brain Cancer
Spouse(s)Cecilia Mary Henderson
Alma materSt John's College, Cambridge
ReligionChristianity (Roman Catholic)
Chinese name
Traditional Chinese黃宗仁
Simplified Chinese黄宗仁
Hanyu PinyinHuáng Zōngrén
Hokkien POJÛi Chhung-Yĭn

Early lifeEdit

He was born in Penang to parents Wee Gim Puay and Lim Paik Yew. He received his early education at the Penang Free School, and read law at St John's College, Cambridge. He was called to Bar at the Middle Temple in November 1938, and was admitted as an Advocate and Solicitor of Straits Settlements in 1940 upon returning to Penang.

Legal practiceEdit

Wee practised law in Malaysia and Singapore from 1940 to 1957, with the firm Wee Swee Teow and Co.

Judicial careerEdit

Wee became the first Asian lawyer to be appointed to the position of a judge at the Supreme Court of Singapore on 15 August 1957, and subsequently appointed Chief Justice of Singapore on 5 January 1963. His appointment as Chief Justice, marked the end of the century-old tradition of appointing British Chief Justices – the last of whom was Sir Alan Rose – for Singapore.[1] Wee remained in the position for 27 years, making him the longest-serving chief justice not only in Singapore, but also in the Commonwealth.[2]

Other rolesEdit

Wee also served as the first chairman of the Presidential Council for Minority Rights from 1973 and remained at its helm for 18 years. Wee assumed the post of the acting President of Singapore for two days when Devan Nair stepped down as President. Wee Chong Jin had also stepped in when Singapore's heads of state were either away or indisposed. He had stood in for Yusof Ishak when he was Yang di-Pertuan Negara and also for President Benjamin Sheares. He was the first president of the Singapore Academy of Law in 1988. In August 1991, he was awarded the Distinguished Service Order.[3] In April 1992, Wee was made an Honorary Member and Fellow of the Singapore Academy of Law for life – the highest honour made to a person by the Academy. He served as a legal consultant of the Supreme Court of Singapore after his retirement on 27 September 1990, and was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2004.


Wee was also known for his love for sports, as he was an outstanding cricketer for Cambridge University in 1937 and a keen golfer serving as President of the Singapore Golf Association from 1962 to 2002.


Wee died on 5 June 2005 of complications from lung and brain cancer, and a funeral was held at the Catholic Church of St. Ignatius at King's Road in Bukit Timah before his body was cremated at the Mandai Crematorium. Wee is survived by his wife, Cecilia Henderson, three sons, Laurence, John and Patrick, and one daughter, Veronica, and his grandchildren, Laura, Nicole, David and Michael.


  • "The notion of a subjective or unfettered discretion is contrary to the rule of law. All power has legal limits and the rule of law demands that the courts should be able to examine the exercise of discretionary power."-Wee Chong Jin CJ in Chng Suan Tze v Minister for Home Affairs [1988] SGCA 16.
  • The qualities that one should look for in a judge are a burning desire to be fair and impartial; the courage to uphold the law and strike down injustice; compassion, coupled with an understanding of human frailties; and lastly, love for the law.—Wee Chong Jin[4]
  • A man of few words, he nevertheless 'came down hard' if anyone deliberately or through ignorance tried to mislead the court. He loved the moot point and relished a fine argument. I remember an appeal I did for a client sentenced to six years' jail, inter alia, for importing a-go-go dancers and it was on the sole ground of misjoinder of charges. Hardly five minutes into my opening address, the 'Chief' in his usual soft, calm voice asked the Deputy Public Prosecutor if he was 'seriously' upholding the conviction. It was a rare occasion when that gentleman was bereft of words! Although he showed a somewhat stern demeanour in court, apart from his prodigious memory, he had, as others have said, a sensitive and kind heart.—Geoffrey Abisheganaden, lawyer[5]
  • He is remembered with fondness by lawyers for his patience, tolerance and sense of fairness and justice. He has a quick grasp of the law and understands the frailty of human weakness.—Leo Cheng Suan, Executive committee member, Law Society of Singapore[2]
  • We all lived with my father in his house even after we had our own apartments. It was becoming a bit of a joke, because we were already in our 30s and 40s. People tell us 'you guys should be moving out', but we loved to live there. My father was such a nice guy and we are a very closely-knit family. My father spent a lot of time at home with us. As the CJ, he had to separate the social side of things from work. He had to be a little anti-social, so that there won't be innuendoes on his impartiality. It was one of the disadvantages of the job. -- Patrick Wee, on his father being a loving family man.[citation needed]
  • He was never short-tempered or impatient. He was a good and loving father, who worked long hours and had no extravagant needs. ... My one favourite and recent memory is of him singing Baa Baa Black Sheep to my 18-month-old daughter, Nicole Wee.[who?][citation needed]


Honour of MalaysiaEdit

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Supreme Court History
  2. ^ a b Peh Shing Huei (6 June 2005). "Ex-CJ and 1st Asian judge in S'pore dies; Place in history books assured after he helped steer Republic through its formative years". The Straits Times.
  3. ^ Omar, Marsita; Sidek, Azizah (2016). "singaporeinfopedia > Personalities > Wee Chong Jin". National Library Board Singapore. Singapore. Retrieved 29 April 2017.
  4. ^ "A giant of S'pore legal history". The Straits Times. 6 June 2005.
  5. ^ Geoffrey Abisheganaden (10 June 2005). "Ex-CJ was stern in court, but always fair and kind". The Straits Times.
  6. ^ "Semakan Penerima Darjah Kebesaran, Bintang dan Pingat".
Legal offices
Preceded by
Alan Rose
Chief Justice of Singapore
Succeeded by
Yong Pung How