Prof. Arthur Lim
"You may take away my freedom and separate me from my loved ones but you cannot kill my spirit."
– Lim Hock Siew
"A great Singapore doctor dedicated to the poor"
– Prof Arthur Lim, founder of National Eye Center and classmate of Dr Lim Hock Siew
"...a good and honourable man"
– Vivian Balakrishnan, Minister of the Environment and Water Resources
Once in a century, a nation is blessed with a great leader. In Singapore we had Dr Lim Hock Siew. Hock Siew was a top student at Raffles Institution in the 1940s, where he was already known as a good writer and a leading student orator.
In I950, he joined the University of Singapore as a medical student. He was active in the University of Singapore Students' Union and was elected chairman of the students' council, which was the executive committee directing the activities of the union. In 1953 he founded the University Socialist Club.
When eight students, the editors of Fajar — the publication of the Socialist Club — were arrested for sedition, Hock Siew became the chairman of their defence fund.
Despite his studies and numerous activities as a student at the university, Hock Siew became a founder member of the People's Action Party in 1954.
During this period, Hock Siew was a dedicated socialist leader fighting for the less fortunate and the poor. His courage attracted numerous supporters, not only University of Singapore students but leaders of the labour movement as well.
Hock Siew was a great doctor who cared for his patients. He charged low fees and would not charge if the patients could not afford to pay. This led to long queues at his clinic. A patient, Yuen Kwong Chow, wrote that his assuring words, patience and empathy for every patient, combined with his respect for all patients, made him the "People's Doctor". Lim Hock Siew is an important example for doctors of the world; younger doctors, especially those in private practice, should learn to be less concerned with money and more concerned with the care of the patient. Lim Hock Siew was a wonderful example.
An important part of Lim Hock Siew was his unique sense of humour.
One day, I was riding pillion on his small 250cc motorcycle. He stopped at a corner of Serangoon Road and I had to balance myself on the ground as the bike was small. When the light changed, he went off and left me standing. Then ten minutes later, he returned and asked, "Where were you?"
I recall one of his favourite jokes:
A magic mirror was bought for US$ 1000 and this woman stood in front of it and said, "Mirror, mirror on the wall, make my bosom forty-four."
The husband saw the magic and asked, "Do you think the mirror would grant me a wish?"
"Of course," she replied.
He said, "Mirror, mirror on the wall, make my private parts reach the floor."
You know what happened? He lost both his legs.
In 1961, four years after graduation, Lim Hock Siew formed the Barisan Sosialis, the new left-wing group which had been expelled from the PAP to become the key opposition to the PAP. Major changes developed in Singapore — social, political and economic.
A dramatic day came at 4 am on 2 February 1963. The police arrested Lim Hock Siew at his home during Operation Cold Store. While in prison without trial, Hock Siew was offered release to be with his wife and son if he would sign papers prepared by the government. Like Mandela from South Africa, Hock Siew refused and remained in prison.
These were his famous words, "You may take away my freedom and separate me from my loved ones, but you cannot kill my spirit."
After 20 years, he was released without having to sign any papers. The government had given way and medical alumni friends spoke of how Hock Siew fought the government for his rights to express his ideas. But he paid the supreme price like Mandela and Gandhi. He was imprisoned without trial for 20 years.
Despite imponderable challenges, Lim Hock Siew emerged with his honour and integrity intact. He gained the respect of everyone who knew him.
The story of Lim Hock Siew is essential as future Singaporeans will scarcely believe that such a doctor existed.
Lim Hock Siew had wonderful support from his intelligent and dedicated wife: Dr Beatrice Chen is one of the best physicians in Singapore and helped Hock Siew maintain a high quality medical practice. She strengthened his determination. She guided their son, Yue Wen, who graduated from Cambridge, and then his grandson, Sean Lim Jun An.
What of the future? Hock Siew will be remembered as a great doctor and a national hero. His 20 years in jail without trial and his dedication to socialism have earned this eminent doctor deep respect by citizens of the world.
（The People's Hero: Commemorating the 5th anniversary of the passing of Dr Lim Hock Siew, pp.169-171, January 2017.）
2017年3月15日首版 Created on March 15, 2017
2017年3月15日改版 Last updated on March 15, 2017