Francis Seow, Singapore-born American writer and political refugee, Died at 88


Francis Seow was born in 1928 and died in January 2016.

He was a Singapore-born American writer, political dissident and former lawyer.

Francis lived in exile from Singapore after facing lawsuits from Lee Kuan Yew, Singapore’s first Prime Minister.

He received his education at Saint Joseph’s Institution in Singapore and at the Middle Temple in London, and was a Visiting Fellow at Harvard Law School.

He received United States citizenship and lived in Massachusetts.

He joined the Singapore Legal Service in 1956 and rose through the ranks to become the Solicitor-General in 1969, a position he held until 1971.

Over the period his career, he toiled under the administration of Lee Kuan Yew, Singapore’s first Prime Minister, and was appointed senior counsel to a Commission of Inquiry in the Secondary IV examination boycott by Chinese students in 1963 prior to Singapore’s entry into Malaysia.

For his work, Seow was awarded the Public Administration (Gold) Medal. He eventually left the public service and entered into private law practice in 1972.

Francis Seow was later suspended from law practice for 12 months by Wee Chong Jin, Singapore’s first Chief Justice, for breaching an undertaking given on behalf of his junior law partner to the Attorney-General, Tan Boon Teik, while in private practice.

Nevertheless, Seow was later elected as a member of the Council of the Law Society in 1976 and eventually became its President in 1986.

Seow acted for Tan Mui Choo, in 1985, one of Adrian Lim’s accomplices in the Toa Payoh ritual murders, in her unsuccessful appeal against her death sentence.

Francis new appointment led to a falling out with Lee Kuan Yew after he became embroiled in the politics surrounding the role of the Law Society.

Seow had visualized a restoration of the role of the Law Society to comment on legislation that the government churned out without any meaningful parliamentary debate – a role Lee took special exception to.

The consequences were, Lee caused special legislation to be passed that deprived the Law Society of any power to comment on legislation unless the government specifically asked for its comments.

Mr.Seow survived for the 1988 general election as a member of the opposition Workers’ Party team that contested in the Eunos Group Representation Constituency against the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP).

Though, his team managed to secure 49.11% of valid votes and lost marginally to the PAP.

Not long before the election, Seow was detained without trial under the Internal Security Act for 72 days.

Francis was accused of having received political campaign finance from the United States to promote democracy in Singapore.

Visible in his account, he was subjected to torture, including sleep deprivation and intensely cold air-conditioning.

Then after that, while awaiting trial for alleged tax evasion, he left for the United States for health treatment and disregarded numerous court summons to return to stand trial.

Afterward, Seow was convicted in absentia. While living in exile, Seow spoke at events organised by Singaporean student societies in universities outside of Singapore.

Allegedly in an interview in London, in 1989, Mr.Seow told The Sunday Times that he would return to Singapore to face tax evasion charges.

Amnesty International issued a public statement mentioning Seow as one of two prominent Singaporean lawyers who were penalised for exercising their right to express their opinions, on 16 October 2007.

The Amnesty International had called him a “prisoner of conscience.”

Himself and Tang Fong Har publicly addressed a Singapore Democratic Party forum via teleconferencing, on  October 8, 2011.

The police in Singapore investigated the legality of the matter on the following day.

Mr.Seow death was announced by close friend Dr Chee Soon Juan, secretary-general of the Singapore Democratic Party.

He left behind his two sons and two daughters.

Francis Seow passed away at 88 yrs old.