Lee Meng: Difference between revisions

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Latest revision as of 10:23, 15 February 2020

Lee Meng
Outdoor portrait of Lee Min, leader of the communist Kepayang Gang in the Ipoh district in 1951 (AWM 4281801).JPG
Outdoor portrait of Lee Meng (also called as Lee Min), the female Malayan National Liberation Army (MNLA) guerrilla leader of the "Kepayang Gang" in Ipoh District during the ensuing Malayan Emergency, c. 1951.[1][2]
Born
Lee Ten Tai

1926 (1926)
Died2 June 2012(2012-06-02) (aged 85–86)
NationalityChinese
Other namesLee Ten Tai, Lee Min
Political partyCommunist Party of Malaya
MovementMalayan Peoples' Anti-Japanese Army (1942–1945)
Malayan National Liberation Army (1948–1952)
Criminal charge(s)Charged with death penalty for issuing order on several murders
Criminal penaltyReduced to imprisonment
Criminal statusCommuted, released to China in 1964
Spouse(s)
Chen Tien
(m. 1965; died 1990)

Lee Meng[n 1] (c. 1926 – 2 June 2012) was a notorious female Chinese guerrilla member and leader of the Communist Party of Malaya (CPM) in Ipoh, Perak throughout the post-World War II in British Malaya.[3] She was described as one of the ruthless woman and the most capable members of the local communist movement, where she was also identified as the main leader of the "Kepayang Gang" in Perak.[1][2]

Background and early life[edit]

Born as Lee Ten Tai in Canton of the Republic of China in 1926, Lee moved to Ipoh together with her family at the age of five.[4] She firstly worked as a school teacher in a Chinese school located in Anson Bay (present-day Teluk Intan) in Perak during the British Military Administration shortly after the Japanese surrender on 12 September 1945.[4] Lee had joined the Communist Party of Malaya (CPM) at the age of 16 when she was recruited by the school teacher in 1942. Her father was unemployed and lived with her uncle and aunt while her mother was later banished back to Mainland China by the British authorities in 1950 after being arrested for involvement in communist activities.[1][4]

Underground activities[edit]

Prior to her recruitment, she led the party's underground area committee of Ipoh during the Japanese occupation of British Malaya where she had the reputation as a cunning fighter and plot organiser and known as one of the most ruthless members of the CPM in Ipoh.[4] She also operating a Central Committee communication posts which co-ordinated a top secret communist communication networks with links to other states such as Pahang, Selangor, Penang and as far to Singapore.[1] A majority of her followers are female, both young and old with legal cover occupations and throughout the activities, she helped any pregnant wives of high rankings communists in Perak for their confinement in the houses of selected relatives.[1]

Throughout the Malayan Emergency, she controlled many of the major armed units in the town area, including the notorious Kepayang Gang along with Special Mobile Squad (SMS) that were reported as being responsible for many of the assassinations and grenade attacks that were carried out between 1948 until 1951.[1][2] Although the Special Branch unable to prove Lee's involvement in any of the attacks, she held the utmost responsible as most of the units are under her control.[2] Many of the captured as well surrendered communist guerrillas members also described her as the one who ordered a number of cold-blooded executions which were carried out by Communist Special Service squads while the communist party's leader Chin Peng described her as a dedicated, active and brave woman where she was also reckless in her operational style.[4]

Events leading to her arrestment[edit]

One of the victims of the communist spate of murders, Irene Lee whose husband Detective-Corporal Jimmy Loke was killed by a communist gunmen in Penang in April 1951 decided to joined the Malayan police force where she was promoted as Detective-Inspector and was subsequently posted to Special Branch headquarters in Kuala Lumpur.[4] Irene was highly regarded by Singapore Special Branch as among the highly competent and experienced officer which were also supported by the view of British journalist and author Noel Barber.[4]

Manhunt and subsequent arrestment[edit]

Following a raid on a communist guerrilla camp in Selangor in early February 1952, documents from the abandoned camp revealed the identity of a Chinese woman serving as a courier member from Singapore into Johor which identified as Ah Shu or Ah Soo, a Chinese school teacher and the wife of Wong Fook Kwang (Tit Fung), the leader of the Communist-controlled Workers Protection Corps in Singapore.[4] The woman husband is responsible in the killings of pineapple and rubber merchant Lim Teck Kin and several others victims including a policeman, a factory supervisor and a manager at Hock Lee Bus Company in Singapore. Once the identity of Ah Shu was identified, Irene was sent by her department into Singapore in February 1952 to track the woman and follow a trail that would ultimately lead to Lee's arrest and her eventual banishment to Mainland China.[4]

Lee was captured by the British Malayan police forces in Ipoh in July 1952, tried for having a hand grenade in her possession and sentenced to death for her responsibility in issuing order on several murders.[5][6][7] In February 1953, a petition was signed by 60 members of the Malayan Parliament to the Sultan of Perak to grant a pardon to Lee since her early petition to appeal the Privy Council had been dismissed by the Judicial Committee.[8] Within the same year, the Hungarian People's Republic government offered to swap British national Edgar Sanders who had been caught in Budapest for suspected espionage to the British authorities for her.[2][3][7][9] The British Prime Minister at the time, Winston Churchill initially refused but following the order by the Sultan of Perak who agreed to pardon and persuaded the British authorities,[7] along with the efforts of Lim Phaik Gan, a British-born Malayan woman lawyer and diplomat,[10] her sentence was commuted and she was released to the People's Republic of China in 1964, after serving her term for 11 years in Taiping prison.[11][12]

Later life and death[edit]

Following her banishment to China, Lee was reunited with her mother, whom she cared for till the latter passed away.[13] She married with Peng's trusted aide and comrade named Chen Tien in 1965.[4] Both intended to moved to southern Thailand and despite their fellow comrade there had built them a house, her husband died on 3 September 1990 due to lung cancer.[13] In August 2007, Lee visited Malaysia to meet one of her trial lawyers, Lim, to thank her for securing her safe release.[4] Lee died in Guangzhou, China, on 2 June 2012 at the age of 86.[4]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Spelled in several Western sources as Lee Min.

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f Khoo Salma Nasution; Abdur-Razzaq Lubis (2005). Kinta Valley: Pioneering Malaysia's Modern Development. Areca Books. pp. 313–. ISBN 978-983-42113-0-1.
  2. ^ a b c d e Leon Comber (2008). Malaya's Secret Police 1945-60: The Role of the Special Branch in the Malayan Emergency. Institute of Southeast Asian Studies. pp. 226–234. ISBN 978-981-230-829-0.
  3. ^ a b "COMMUNISTS: Cold War Barter". Time. 9 March 1953. Retrieved 3 October 2019.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Ronnie Tan (9 April 2018). "Hunting Down the Malayan Mata Hari". National Library Board, Singapore. Retrieved 2 October 2019.
  5. ^ "Pretty Girl Gave Murder Orders Court Told". The Straits Times. 28 August 1952. p. 1. Retrieved 3 October 2019 – via National Library Board, Singapore.
  6. ^ "Representations about the sentence of death passed on Lee Ten Tai, or Lee Meng, by a Malayan court for unlawful possession of arms: report of commuting of death sentence (CO 1022/6)". The National Archives (United Kingdom). 1953. Retrieved 3 October 2019.
  7. ^ a b c Michael Burleigh (11 April 2013). Small Wars, Far Away Places: The Genesis of the Modern World 1945-65. Pan Macmillan. pp. 193–. ISBN 978-0-230-77150-5.
  8. ^ "COMET Will Bring Mercy Appeal". The Straits Times. 20 February 1953. p. 1. Retrieved 3 October 2019 – via National Library Board, Singapore.
  9. ^ Gábor Bátonyi (2015). "Diplomacy by Show Trial: The Espionage Case of Edgar Sanders and British-Hungarian Relations, 1949–53". The Slavonic and East European Review. 93 (4): 692–731. doi:10.5699/slaveasteurorev2.93.4.0692.
  10. ^ Mort Rosenblum (22 July 1971). "Malaysia names woman envoy to United Nations". Eugene Register-Guard. Retrieved 3 October 2019.
  11. ^ "Lee Ten Tai (Trial)". Hansard. 19 November 1952. Retrieved 3 October 2019.
  12. ^ Neal Ascherson (23 July 2009). "Wedgism". London Review of Books. Retrieved 3 October 2019.
  13. ^ a b Chin Peng (2003). My Side of History. Media Masters. pp. 502–. ISBN 978-981-04-8693-8.