Book Launch: “As Empires Fell: The Life and Times of Lee Hau-Shik, the First Finance Minister of Malaya”


About the Book

ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute is pleased to invite you to the launch of “As Empires Fell: The Life and Times of Lee Hau-Shik, the First Finance Minister of Malaya”. This biography of Sir H.S. Lee looks at the indelible impact he had on Malaya’s independence and subsequent nation-building process.

This book is authored by Dr Ooi Kee Beng and is based on Sir Henry Lee’s extensive private papers – which were donated to the ISEAS Library by his family. Using this valuable resource, Dr Ooi’s biography tells the story of an “unlikely politician” whose career played a foundational role in Malaya and then Malaysia’s economic and political institutions.

Born in Hong Kong to a highly prominent family at a time when the Qing Dynasty was falling, Lee Hau-Shik went on to become a successful tin miner in British Malaya and an influential member of Kuala Lumpur’s colonial society. After the Second World War, H.S. Lee’s influence in elite circles in China, Britain and Malaya saw him playing a key role in Malaya’s independence. He was a co-founder of the Malayan Chinese Association and a member of the Merdeka (Independence) mission to London. H.S. Lee was the only non-Malay signatory to Malaya’s independence agreement with Britain. He subsequently served as the country’s first Minister of Finance, laying the foundations of the country’s financial system and establishing the Central Bank of Malaya. H.S. Lee also founded many well-known Malaysian entities, including the China Press, as well as the Development and Commercial Bank.

The index to Lee Hau-Shik’s papers can be accessed via ISEAS Library webpage at this link.

About the Author

Dr Ooi Kee Beng is the Executive Director of Penang Institute. He was the Deputy Director (2011-2017) of ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute, where he had been a fellow since 2004. Born and raised in Penang, he received his PhD in Sinology from Stockholm University.

He is the founder-editor of the popular magazine Penang Monthly and the policy briefs ISSUES (Penang Institute) and ISEAS Perspective (ISEAS). He is also editor of Trends in Southeast Asia (ISEAS), and a long-time columnist for The Edge Malaysia. His book, The Reluctant Politician: Tun Dr Ismail and His Time (2006), won the “Award of Excellence for Best Writing Published in Book Form on Any Aspect of Asia (Non-Fiction)”.

Download the programme here. (Updated 24 August 2020)


This webinar will be delivered online entirely. You can join the webinar at the specified date and time using devices (computer, phone, or tablet) with internet connection.

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For the best experience, please mute your microphone. If you have questions for the speaker, please key in your questions via the Q&A, stating your name and affiliation. The moderator will field them to the speaker during the Q&A session.


Aug 27 2020


2:30 pm - 4:00 pm