Tributes pour in as founding chairman of Malaysia's DAP, Dr Chen Man Hin, dies aged 97

Dr Chen Man Hin, the founding chairman of Malaysia’s Democratic Action Party (DAP) and a staunch advocate of multiracialism and inclusivity, has died aged 97, his party said on Wednesday (Aug 17).

The predominantly ethnic Chinese party described Chen as a “tireless fighter for justice and equality” whose unwavering principles and courage would never be forgotten.

“Dr Chen dedicated his life towards serving the nation. We owe Dr Chen a debt of gratitude for his immeasurable contribution and vision to the party and to his beloved country,” the DAP, which is also Malaysia’s largest opposition party, said in a Facebook post.

Chen was DAP’s chairman from 1966 to 1999 and served as MP of Seremban in Negeri Sembilan state in the late 70s and the early 90s.

He migrated from China to Malaysia before the second world war and studied medicine in Singapore’s King Edward VII Medical College in the 1950s. Chen later worked as a doctor in the city-state and Seremban Hospital before venturing into private practice.

He was also briefly a member of Singapore’s ruling People’s Action Party (PAP) from 1964 to 1965.

The DAP was founded by PAP members such as Chen and C.V. Devan Nair – a founding member of the PAP – in the aftermath of the split between Malaysia and Singapore in 1965 following a brief and stormy union.

DAP leaders, observers and Malaysian netizens paid tributes to Chen, hailing him as a “true Malaysian patriot” who started the party with a vision of building a multiethnic Malaysian identity.


DAP chairman and former finance minister Lim Guan Eng said he was deeply saddened by Chen’s death, while political analyst Bridget Welsh commended the party stalwart’s knowledge of Malaysia’s political history.

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“Dr Chen Man Hin lived a long life dedicated to public service and a better Malaysia. Sincere condolences to his family,” Welsh tweeted.


Trade minister Azmin Ali also offered his condolences to Chen’s family and DAP members.

Netizens recalled Chen’s service to the community, including offering low-cost medical treatment at his clinic and promoting racial harmony in Malaysia.

“Dr Chen will be fondly remembered as a kind soul who offered free and very low fee medical services at his clinic to the poor in Seremban for many years,” a user said.

Wrote another: “I have met and talked with Dr Chen. He never discriminated against race and religion.”

Others said Chen “fought on an uneven field to ensure every Malaysian regardless of race and beliefs was able to enjoy the labour of our earlier leaders” and “laid the foundation for our children to have a better future”.

Malays account for over 60 per cent of the country’s population of around 33 million, while ethnic Chinese make up about 20 per cent and Indians most of the rest. A little over 60 per cent of the population is Muslim.

This article was first published in South China Morning Post.