George Yeo

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George Yeo
George Yeo by Michael Wuertenberg.jpg
George Yeo at the World Economic Forum in 2010
Chancellor of Nalanda University
In office
6 July 2015 – 25 November 2016
Preceded byAmartya Sen
Succeeded byVijay P. Bhatkar
Minister for Foreign Affairs
In office
12 August 2004 – 21 May 2011
Prime MinisterLee Hsien Loong
Preceded byShanmugam Jayakumar
Succeeded byK. Shanmugam
Minister for Trade and Industry
In office
3 June 1999 – 12 August 2004
Prime MinisterGoh Chok Tong
Succeeded byLim Hng Kiang
Minister for Health
In office
2 January 1994 – 25 January 1997
Prime MinisterGoh Chok Tong
Preceded byYeo Cheow Tong
Succeeded byYeo Cheow Tong
Minister for Information and the Arts
In office
28 November 1990 – 3 June 1999
Prime MinisterGoh Chok Tong
Preceded byYeo Ning Hong
Succeeded byLee Yock Suan
Member of Parliament
for Aljunied GRC (Bedok Reservoir-Punggol)
In office
3 September 1988 – 7 May 2011
Preceded byConstituency created
Succeeded byLow Thia Khiang (WP)
Majority16,225 (12.2%)
Personal details
Born (1954-09-13) 13 September 1954 (age 64)
Political partyPeople's Action Party (1988-2011)
Spouse(s)Jennifer Leong Lai Peng (梁利平)
Alma materChrist's College, Cambridge
Military service
Branch/service Singapore Army
Years of service1976-1988
RankBrigadier General
CommandsChief of Staff (Air Staff) (1985-86)

George Yeo Yong-Boon (simplified Chinese: 杨荣文; traditional Chinese: 楊榮文; pinyin: Yáng Róng Wén; born 13 September 1954) is a Singaporean business executive and a former politician. He is the current chairman and executive director of Kerry Logistics Network. Yeo was also the Chancellor of Nalanda University and member of the University Governing Board (earlier the Nalanda Mentor Group).

Yeo represented the People's Action Party (PAP) in the Singapore parliament as a member of the Aljunied Group Representation Constituency from 1988 until in 2011, where his team was defeated to the opposition Workers' Party (led by then-Secretary General Low Thia Khiang), after which he announced his retirement from politics. During his time as an MP, Yeo was made a Cabinet member for Information and the Arts (1991–99), Health (1994–97), Trade and Industry (1999–2004) and Foreign Affairs (2004–11)

Prior to entering Parliament, Yeo was a Brigadier-General in the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF). He served as the Chief of Staff of the RSAF from 1985 to 1986, and as the Director of Joint Operations and Planning at the Ministry of Defence from 1986 to 1988.

Early life[edit]

Yeo received his primary school education at St. Stephen's School.[1] He studied at St. Patrick's School as well as St. Joseph's Institution and finished his GCE Ordinary Level at the top of the class in 1970. As a President's Scholar and Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) Scholar, he graduated from Christ's College, University of Cambridge with a degree in engineering in 1976.[2]

Military career[edit]

Upon returning from England, Yeo served as an officer in the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF). He served as a signals officer in the Singapore Army, before transferring to the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF), where he rose to the rank of Brigadier-General. He then attended Harvard Business School and earned a Master in Business Administration, graduating as a Baker Scholar in 1985.[2]

When Yeo returned to Singapore, he served as the Chief-of-Staff of the Air Staff from 1985 to 1986, and as the Director of Joint Operations and Planning at the Ministry of Defence (MINDEF) from 1986 to 1988.[2] He also led the team which conceptualised the SAFTI Military Institute.[3]

Yeo was promoted to the rank of Brigadier-General in 1988, but in August that year, he resigned from the SAF to enter Parliament.[2]

Political career[edit]

Yeo entered the parliament in the 1988 Singaporean general election where he represented Aljunied Group Representation Constituency under the Kampong Kembangan division. During the election, it was the first election in which Group Representation Constituency was introduced, along which Kampong Kembangan was one of the initial divisions which forms the three-member GRC, where it was led by former Senior Parliament of Secretary Chin Harn Tong. His GRC in which he anchored was further expanded to four seats in 1991, and then five since the 1997 election.

In the 2001 election, his ward of Kampong Kembangan was merged with the nearby Punggol ward (from the Cheng San Group Representation Constituency) to become Aljunied-Kembangan and Kembangan-Punggol, in which Yeo was the MP for the latter. In the 2006 general election, his ward was later reformed to include the Bedok Reservoir parts, hence becoming Bedok Reservoir-Punggol.

Following his election into Parliament, Yeo served in various ministries, including the Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Information, Communications and the Arts, Ministry of Health, Ministry of Trade and Industry and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

As Minister for Information, Communications and the Arts, he liberalised the use of dialects in the local film industry, which paved the way for a generation of local film directors and producers.[citation needed] He also oversaw the design and construction of the Esplanade Theatres on the Bay and the new National Library.[citation needed]

In the 1990s, Yeo pushed for widespread adoption of internet infrastructure in Singapore, stating that it was important for Singapore to retain its role as a regional hub. Its geographical advantage would matter less, and its infrastructural advantage in the exchange of information and ideas would matter more. In 1995, he defended government censorship of the Internet even as it proved technologically challenging to do so: "Censorship can no longer be 100% effective, but even if it is only 20% effective, we should not stop censoring." In what he described as an "anti-pollution measure in cyberspace", Yeo transferred censorship authority from the Telecommunication Authority of Singapore (TAS) to the Singapore Broadcasting Authority (SBA), which was to "concentrate on areas which may undermine public morals, political stability or religious harmony in Singapore". Yeo said the government would focus on monitoring internet communications that broadcast material to millions of users rather than the "narrowcasting" of private communications between individuals.[4]

As Minister for Trade and Industry, Yeo led his team to successfully negotiate the Free Trade Agreement with the United States, Japan, Australia and other countries.[citation needed] Yeo proposed the idea of having Integrated Resorts (IRs) in Singapore, which would include casinos, which was intensely debated for a year.[5] This paved the way for the 2 IRs in Singapore, Resorts World Sentosa and Marina Bay Sands at the Marina Promenade. (He later shared with a group of university students during a dialogue that his late father had a problem with gambling and the decision to push for the gaming resorts was personally a very difficult one. He said that policy making often involved a choice between 'evils'.)[citation needed]

Yeo represented the Eurasian community in the Cabinet at their request.[citation needed] Yeo was the chairman of the PAP's youth wing from 1991 to 2000,[6] which saw a renaming to Young PAP (YPAP) in 1993. As an enticement for joining the YPAP, he said people joining the YPAP could take positions different from central party leadership.[7]

Yeo and his Aljunied GRC team first faced a team of Singapore Democratic Party (then the largest opposition party led by Chiam See Tong) in 1988 (which led by Ashleigh Seow (the son of Workers' Party candidate for Eunos Group Representation Constituency Francis Seow)) and 1997. In 2006, the party faced WP (led by the party's chair Sylvia Lim) and won with the election's narrowest margin, with 56.1% to 43.9%. However, in the 2011 general election (held 7 May), the WP team (which now led by then Secretary-general Low Thia Khiang) won the election 54.7% to 45.3%, resulting in his election defeat as well as his ministerial appointment[8]. Yeo, along with a co-anchor minister Lim Hwee Hua, were the first two cabinet ministers in post-independence Singapore, and after the 1963 election, to be defeated in the election and consequently losing their parliamentary seats to the opposition.[9][10]

On 10 May 2011, Yeo announced that he was retiring from active politics, and later on 5 October 2011, Yeo stepped down from the PAP's Central Executive Committee (the party's governing body)[11]. During his announcement, Yeo stated that he declined running for presidency later that year, cited that he was a "free spirit" and he was not "temperamentally suited for such a job", despite being popular in online and have "a flood of support" on post-election.[12] He although stated on his Facebook page that he was "thinking hard" about the possibility of becoming a candidate on 1 June[13][14][15], but however, on 15 June, Yeo confirmed that he declined standing for presidency.[16][17]

Post political career[edit]

Yeo has moved to the private sector in Hong Kong since leaving politics in 2011.[18] Yeo joined the Kuok Group as Senior Advisor, and vice chairman of its subsidiary Kerry Group (HK) Pte Ltd in January 2012.[19]

In August 2012, he became chairman and executive director of Kerry Logistics Network.[20] He is also a director of Kerry Holdings and non-executive director of Wilmar International.[21] Yeo also serves as the non-executive director of AIA Group since November 2012.[21]

He has since been based in both Singapore and Hong Kong.

Other activities[edit]

Yeo is currently a member of the Foundation Board of the World Economic Forum, the Nicolas Berggruen Institute’s 21st Century Council and the International Advisory Board of IESE Business School. He was recently appointed as a non-official member of the newly established Hong Kong Economic Development Commission.[22] Because he is a Catholic politician with expertise on economics and finance, he was named by Pope Francis to serve as one of the Lay Members of the newly established Council for Economic Affairs, which will oversee the work of the new Secretariat for the Economy, which will have financial regulatory authority over all departments of the Roman Curia.[23]

Yeo joined the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy as a Visiting Scholar from August 2011. His appointment will last for a three-year term.[24]

He also takes the following advisory roles in Singapore:

Nalanda University 2011 to 2016[edit]

Yeo was involved in reviving the ancient Buddhist university, Nalanda University, in Bihar, India. He was Chancellor of Nalanda University[25] and member of the University Governing Board,[26] and the governing board's International Advisory Panel. In November 2016, he resigned as the chancellor of Nalanda University accusing the Indian government of failing to maintain the university’s autonomy. [27]

Awards and recognition[edit]

In 2012, Yeo was awarded the Padma Bhushan, by India,[28] the Order of Sikatuna, with the rank of Datu (Grand Cross), by the Philippines,[29] and the Honorary Officer of the Order of Australia, by Australia.[30]

Personal life[edit]

A Roman Catholic, Yeo married lawyer Jennifer Leong Lai Peng in 1984. The couple have three sons and a daughter. Yeo also has a niece named Gwendoline Yeo, who was an actress and musician [2]

In 2004 their youngest son, who has struggled with childhood leukemia since age three, received a bone marrow transplant at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee. Recognising the difficulties faced by families in such situations, Leong founded the Viva Foundation to help children with cancer to improve the survival rate and cure of children with cancer, especially childhood leukemia, in Singapore and Southeast Asia. In May 2006, a memorandum of understanding was signed between St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, National University of Singapore (NUS), National University Hospital (NUH) in Singapore, and the VIVA Foundation for Children with Cancer (VIVA).[31]

Yeo is an avid jogger and has participated in the Singapore Marathon 10 km run. He is a student of Taiji, an internal Chinese martial art, and describes himself as "a bit of a Taoist".[32]


George Yeo, George Yeo on Bonsai, Banyan and the Tao, edited by Asad-ul Iqbal Latif and Lee Huay Leng, Singapore: World Scientific Publishing, 2015, 686 pages.

Justin Corfield, Historical Dictionary of Singapore, Lanham, Maryland: Scarecrow Press, 2011, pp. 297–298.

Justin Corfield and Robin Corfield, Encyclopedia of Singapore, Lanham, Maryland: Scarecrow Press, 2006, pp. 247–248.

Low Kar Tiang (editor), Who's Who in Singapore, Singapore, 2003, p. 467.


  1. ^ a b "Ministry of Foreign Affairs Biographies". Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Archived from the original on 2010-09-28.
  2. ^ a b c d e "Life and Career of George Yeo". Yahoo Singapore: SingaporeScene. 10 May 2011. Archived from the original on 2011-05-16. Retrieved 2011-05-10.
  3. ^ "George Yeo".
  4. ^ Rodan, Gary (1998). "The Internet and Political Control in Singapore". Political Science Quarterly. 113 (1): 63–89. JSTOR 2657651.
  5. ^ "Mega boost likely: George Yeo". The Straits Times. 15 April 2005. Archived from the original on 2012-11-07. Retrieved 16 August 2011.
  6. ^ "George Yeo". Archived from the original on 2011-09-06.
  7. ^ Rodan, Garry (1996). Political oppositions in industrialising Asia. Psychology Press. p. 101. ISBN 978-0-415-14865-8.
  8. ^ "YEO, george". Archived from the original on 2017-06-28. Retrieved 2017-03-18.
  9. ^ "A Singaporean minister again in a hot seat". Straits Times. 28 April 2011. Retrieved 8 May 2011.
  10. ^ Rajaram, Chitra (8 May 2011). "GE "We hear all your voices", says PM Lee – General Election 2011". Channel NewsAsia. Retrieved 9 May 2011.
  11. ^ "Goh Chok Tong, George Yeo & LKY step down from PAP CEC". Archived from the original on 2011-10-20. Retrieved 2011-11-12.
  12. ^ Ong, Dai Lin (11 May 2011). "I'm disappointed, but this is politics, says George Yeo". Today (Singapore newspaper). Retrieved 7 August 2011.
  13. ^ "George Yeo may consider running for President". Asiaone. Archived from the original on 2011-06-04. Retrieved June 20, 2011.
  14. ^ "George Yeo for President?". TODAY. Archived from the original on June 7, 2011. Retrieved June 20, 2011.
  15. ^ "楊榮文正認真考慮競選總統 (Translation: George Yeo is Considering to Run for President)". My Paper. 2 June 2011. Archived from the original on 8 October 2011. Retrieved 2 June 2011.
  16. ^ "George Yeo not running for Elected Presidency". Channel NewsAsia. Archived from the original on 2011-06-16. Retrieved June 16, 2011.
  17. ^ "'I don't see myself returning to politics': George Yeo". Archived from the original on 2017-02-22. Retrieved 2017-03-18.
  18. ^ Singh, Malminderjit. "George Yeo joins Wilmar board". The Business Times. Archived from the original on 2017-09-16. Retrieved 2017-09-16.
  19. ^ "George Yeo to join Kuok Group". Channel NewsAsia. Archived from the original on 2012-01-07. Retrieved 18 December 2011.
  20. ^ "Focus" (PDF). Kerry Logistics FOCUS (12). 2012. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2012-12-24. Retrieved 2013-07-04.
  21. ^ a b "George Yong-Boon Yeo". Archived from the original on 2017-09-16. Retrieved 2017-09-16.
  22. ^ "No conflict of interest in George Yeo's appointment to Hong Kong commission: Masagos". Channel NewsAsia. Archived from the original on 2013-02-09. Retrieved 12 February 2013.
  23. ^ "COMUNICATO DELLA SALA STAMPA DELLA SANTA SEDE, 08.03.2014". Archived from the original on 2014-03-09. Retrieved 2014-03-09.
  24. ^ Saad, Imelda. "George Yeo to join LKY School of Public Policy". Channel NewsAsia. Archived from the original on 2011-07-16. Retrieved 16 July 2011.
  25. ^ New Chancellor, Nalanda University. "George Yeo". Nalanda University. Archived from the original on 12 July 2015. Retrieved 12 July 2015.
  26. ^ Governing, Board. "Members". Nalanda University. Archived from the original on 2 September 2015. Retrieved 12 July 2015.
  27. ^ "Too much politics: Singapore's George Yeo walks out of India's Nalanda University as chancellor". Archived from the original on 2017-03-19. Retrieved 2017-03-18.
  28. ^ "Padma Awards Announced". Archived from the original on 2013-05-24. Retrieved 2013-05-15.
  29. ^ "Photo". Archived from the original on 2015-09-24. Retrieved 2015-05-16.
  30. ^ "Honorary Appointments within the General Division of the Order of Australia - 30 November 2012". Archived from the original on 2013-06-06. Retrieved 2013-05-15.
  31. ^ "Who We Are". Viva Foundation. Archived from the original on 18 April 2013. Retrieved 3 January 2013.
  32. ^ "George Yeo not standing for elections in 5 years". Asiaone. Archived from the original on May 13, 2011. Retrieved June 20, 2011.

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Minister of State for Finance
13 September 1988-28 November 1990
Succeeded by
Preceded by
Minister of State for Foreign Affairs
13 September 1988-28 November 1990
Succeeded by
Preceded by
Senior Minister of State for Foreign Affairs
28 November 1990-1 July 1991
Succeeded by
Preceded by
Second Minister for Foreign Affairs
1 July 1991-2 January 1994
Succeeded by
Preceded by
Yeo Ning Hong
Minister for Information and the Arts
28 November 1990 - 1 July 1991 (acting)
1991 - 1999
Succeeded by
Lee Yock Suan
Preceded by
Yeo Cheow Tong
Minister for Health
2 January 1994-25 January 1997
Succeeded by
Yeo Cheow Tong
Preceded by
Minister for Trade and Industry
3 June 1999 - 12 August 2004
Succeeded by
Lim Hng Kiang
Preceded by
Shanmugam Jayakumar
Minister for Foreign Affairs
12 August 2004-7 May 2011
Succeeded by
K Shanmugam