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Wong Kan Seng (黄根成, Huáng Gēn Chéng, Wòng Gān Sìng; born 8 September 1946)[1] is a Singaporean business executive and a former politician. He currently serves as the chairman of Ascendas-Singbridge and non-executive director of United Overseas Bank.

A former member of the governing People's Action Party (PAP), Wong was a Member of Parliament (MP) representing the Bishan-Toa Payoh Group Representation Constituency. Wong served as the country's Deputy Prime Minister from 2005 to 2011. He also held the Cabinet portfolios of Minister for Community Development (1987–91), Minister for Foreign Affairs (1988–94), Minister for Home Affairs (1994–2010) and Co-ordinating Minister for National Security (2010–11).

Political career[]

Wong is a Cantonese and entered politics in 1984 after working as a teacher in the Singapore Civil Service and the private sector.[2] He served and held appointments in the Ministry of Defence. In 1981, he joined Hewlett Packard Singapore where he remained till January 1985.[3]

Wong was elected a Member of Parliament representing the Kuo Chuan constituency in Toa Payoh at the 1984 general election.[4] He has since been re-elected as an MP representing the Group Representation Constituencies (GRCs) of Toa Payoh (1988), Thomson (1991) and Bishan-Toa Payoh (1997, 2001, 2006 and 2011).

Wong was appointed the Acting Minister for Community Development in 1986. He was made a full member of the Cabinet as Minister for Community Development by Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew in 1987. He was concurrently appointed the Minister for Foreign Affairs in 1988. In 1994, he became the Minister for Home Affairs. Wong also served as the Leader of the House in Singapore's Parliament from 1991 to 2007.

Wong was vocal in his capacity as cabinet minister when it comes to defending any criticisms of the PAP as being authoritarian, or that the political process was undemocratic with an advantage given to the ruling party.[5] He often described the opposition as being disorganised, weak and driven by self-interests.[6]

"The public has no sympathy for them. Neither do I. Why should I? I mean, they mess it up."[7]

On opposition politician J.B. Jeyaretnam's proposal to establish an independent elections commission, Wong remarked, "It is absurd. I think we cannot be more democratic than we are now. We even allow a loser to be in Parliament and make speeches attacking the government. Where could you find such a democracy in other countries?"[8]

At the World Conference on Human Rights in 1993, Wong argued that democracy was interpreted differently in Singapore. He claims that its citizens "do not agree that pornography is an acceptable manifestation of free expression or that homosexual relationships are just a matter of lifestyle choice." Wong was also of the belief that excessive emphasis on individual rights over the rights of the community will retard progress.[9]

On 1 September 2005, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong appointed Wong as one of two Deputy Prime Ministers following the retirement of Tony Tan.[10] On 1 November 2010, Wong was appointed the Co-ordinating Minister for National Security and relinquished his post as Minister for Home Affairs.

Wong retired from the Cabinet following the 2011 general election. He remains a Member of Parliament and also the special adviser for economic cooperation to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong until 2015, when he was finally retired from political service after 31 years.[11]

Role in homeland security in Singapore[]

As the Minister for Home Affairs, Wong was in charge of overseeing emergency planning, dealing with internal threats such as cults and terrorists, involved in law and order, and rooting out of criminals and illegal immigrants.[12]

Mas Selamat escape[]

On 27 February 2008, alleged Jemaah Islamiyah leader Mas Selamat bin Kastari escaped from Whitley Road Detention Centre, leading to the largest manhunt in Singapore. Wong expressed his regret in Parliament the day after the occurrence.

"This should never have happened. I am sorry that it has."

He revealed that Mas Selamat escaped when he was taken to the toilet before a meeting at the detention centre's family visit room.[13]

Wong was criticised because news of Mas Selamat's escape was not disseminated to the public until four hours after its occurrence. There were calls for Wong to step down, given the severity of the security lapse.[14] Mas Selamat was eventually recaptured in Johor Bahru, Malaysia, on 1 April 2009, by Malaysian authorities, over a year after his escape.[15]


Wong was then responsible for co-ordinating the inter-ministerial nationwide effort to counter the SARS epidemic.[12] Certain measures were taken to contain the virus, including mandatory home quarantine measures, health screening at immigration checkpoints, schools and hospitals and public education programs. On 31 May 2003, Singapore was taken off the World Health Organisation's list of SARS-affected countries.

Post-political career[]

Wong returned to the private sector after stepping down from the cabinet. Wong was appointed as the chairman of Singbridge, a unit of Temasek Holdings, in 2011.[16] He was later appointed chairman of Ascendas-Singbridge after the merger of the four operating subsidiaries owned by Temasek Holdings and Jurong Town Corporation in 2015.[17] He was appointed as an independent, non-executive director of United Overseas Bank in July 2017.[18]


Wong received his secondary education at Outram Secondary School. He went on to receive a Bachelor of Arts (Honours) from the University of Singapore in 1970, and a Master of Business Administration from the London Business School on a Singapore government scholarship in 1979.

Personal life[]

Wong is married to Ruth Lee Hong Geok. The couple have two children.


  1. Profile of Wong Kan Seng
  2. Emergencies and threats? He's tackled them all", The Straits Times (Singapore), 15 August 2004
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  10. The Cabinet - Mr Wong Kan Seng
  11. Wong Kan Seng steps down as MP after seven terms in 2015
  12. 12.0 12.1 Emergencies and threats? He's tackled them all, The Straits Times (Singapore), 15 August 2004
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