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The Man Who Held The Fort

The death of the late DAP stalwart and former ISA detainee Chian Heng Kai on 16th May 2011 from liver cancer was a great loss to the party and the nation. DAP held a memorial for the former DAP National Vice-Chairman on 14th June 2011 at the Kuala Lumpur and Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall.

The three-hour memorial began with a moment of silence to remember Chian, the first DAP veteran to receive a ‘Datukship’ by the state of Penang. Chian left behind his widow Tan Chui Swee, the first DAP Wanita National Chairperson, and three children – Chian Er Kang, Chian Hsiao Ling, and Chian Hsiao Xing.

As the grieving widow took the stage to eulogize her late husband, she spoke of him as a good husband, a responsible father, and a true gentleman. He was a man of few words who lived sacrificially and always put others before himself, said Tan. She spoke of how Chian – then facing indefinite ISA detention – offered to divorce her “so that he wouldn’t ruin the best years of her life”.

In his letter to her, he described his dilemma of not wanting to let her go, yet not wishing to drag her down. Tan said she cried for three days and sought advice from Sdr Lim Kit Siang and his wife. She turned down his request for divorce, and the couple remained happily married for the rest of Chian’s life.

In his speech, Chian’s eldest son Chian Er Kang narrated how his father fought his illness bravely and steadfastly, without wishing to burden others – much like how he lived his life. A short video clip narrated by Chian’s eldest daughter Chian Hsiao Ling was also screened in recognition of Chian’s remarkable life of service to the party and nation.

Comrades came from all over Malaysia to honor the memory of Sdr Chian, whose political contributions spanned decades as a Member of Parliament, State Assemblyman, and loyal party leader. Party veterans paid tribute to the late Chian’s decades of passionate advocacy for the cause of mother tongue education. Veterans Liew Ah Kim, Tai Sin Piau, and Lau Dak Kee spoke fondly of their late comrade and their decades-old friendship.

Chian was best remembered for his unwavering dedication and tireless devotion to Chinese education, he demonstrated an indomitable spirit and courage to pay the price for his political convictions. Together with another party stalwart Chan Kok Kit, Chian was detained under the Internal Security Act for 4 years and 9 months for their efforts to uphold the constitutional position of mother-tongue education.

Various Chinese language education guilds and cultural associations were present at the memorial to immortalize Chian’s heroic efforts in defence of Chinese education. Among those who spoke of his valiant efforts were Dato’ Dr Toh Kin Woon, President of LLG Cultural Development Centre Berhad, Mr Low Chee Keong, Secretary of the Alumni Association of Taiwan Universities, Malaysia, and Dr Yap Sin Tian, Chairman of the United Chinese School Committee’s Association of Malaysia.

DAP Life Advisor Dr Chen Man Hin called Chian a national hero who fought for a Malaysian Malaysia. Describing Chian as a “calm, cool intellectual” in the midst of a cauldron of political upheaval, Dr Chen praised Chian for his exemplary strength of character.

Remembering how Chian used to sleep on the ping-pong table at the old DAP office in Jalan Sultan, DAP Parliamentary Leader Lim Kit Siang called Chian “a patriot and a DAP pioneer leader” who was instrumental in building the party in its foundational years.

Party leaders presented a bouquet of flowers to Chian’s wife, Tan Chui Swee, along with a commemorative plaque engraved with poem which was especially written by a DAP supporter for the occasion. Audience members also placed flowers in memory of the late Chian.

DAP national leaders including DAP Vice Chairman Tan Kok Wai, DAP National Chairman Karpal Singh, DAP Wanita Chairperson Chong Eng, DAP Secretary General Lim Guan Eng, and DAP Assistant National Publicity Secretary Teo Nie Ching also spoke highly of his selfless character and undiminished idealism.

Sdr Chian Heng Kai may have left us, but his exemplary legacy will continue to guide and inspire many as DAP fights for the ideals he stood for. He will be forever remembered and cherished as the man who held the fort, a fine leader who devoted his life to party-building and nation-building. -The Rocket