The H.S. Lee Private Papers at ISEAS Library

The ISEAS Library is home to the private paper collections of several prominent personalities and one of them is Tun Sir Henry H.S. Lee (Lee Hau Shik), a politician and a banker. He was also one of the founders of the Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA), a political party in Malaysia.

The collection, known as the H.S. Lee Private Papers, was deposited at ISEAS Library by Tun Lee’s family in 2010 and consists of about 4000 images and 166 folios. The folios, totaling 1,291 files of about 180,000 documents, include speeches, correspondence, committee reports, annual reports, financial statements, newspaper clippings, conference papers, newsletters and some memorabilia.

A family portrait of the Lee family, 1960 – H.S. Lee seated on the right
Acc No: 5026001

The materials, covering the period from the 1930s to the 1980s, are a treasure trove of insights, not only into the burgeoning Malayan political scene in the late 1940s to the late 1950s, but also into other spheres of society that Tun Lee was actively involved in such as the guilds and the clan associations, tin mining, banking and finance, and civil society.

One significant part of the collection covers the period of Tun Lee’s time in politics where he helped found the Malayan (later Malaysian) Chinese Association (MCA) in 1949 and played a key part in forging an electoral alliance with the United Malays National Organization (UMNO) in 1952. This later became the Alliance Party and subsequently the Barisan Nasional.

Tun Lee was part of the Alliance team led by UMNO President Tunku Abdul Rahman that held constitutional talks with London for Malaya’s independence. On that 1956 trip to London, he was one of the signatories to the Malayan Declaration of Independence and was appointed the first Finance Minister of an independent Federation of Malaya in 1957.

H.S. Lee at the 1957 Merdeka Celebration.
Acc No: 3019001
H.S. Lee speaking at MCA’s 13th Annual Dinner, 1 March 1959.
Acc No: 3022003

Besides the documents relating to Tun Lee’s political life, there is a large portion relating to his leadership in the Chinese community, especially in the guilds and clan associations. He helped to form the Kwantung (Guangdong) Association, the Chinese Mining Association, and several Chinese Chambers of Commerce. When Japan invaded China in 1937, Tun Lee headed the Selangor China Relief Fund and he was also known for his association with China’s Kuomintang Party.

H.S. Lee at the opening ceremony of the new premises of Lee’s Association, 10 July 1955.
Acc No: 6001005
The opening of All Malaya Kochow Association’s new premises, 11 Feb 1951.
Acc No: 6007000

The next major portion of the collection relates to Tun Lee’s corporate life. On his retirement from politics in 1959, Tun Lee entered the banking and finance industry and successfully established the Development and Commercial Bank (D & C Bank). By the time he stepped down in 1984, it had become Malaysia’s fifth largest bank with 28 branches.

H.S. Lee with Dato’ Wong Shee Fun, Singapore Golden Castle Finance 10th Anniversary Annual Dinner at Equatorial Hotel, 6 Mar 1975.
Acc No: 2040000
H.S. Lee as D&C Bank chairman.
Acc No: 2079004

To find out more about the Library’s collection of private papers, check out the biographical notes and detailed indexes to the various papers here.

Further Readings

Ooi Kee Beng, As empires fell: the life and times of Lee Hau-Shik, the first Finance Minister of Malaya (Singapore: ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute, 2020). ISEAS Library Call No: DS597.15 L47O59

Tan Miau Ing, Tun Sir Henry Lee Hau Shik: ahli perniagaan dan tokoh politik (Kuala Lumpur: Penerbit Universiti Malaya, 2018). ISEAS Library Call No: DS597.15 L47T16

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