George Yeo Yong-Boon
|Chancellor of Nalanda University|
6 July 2015 – 25 November 2016
|Preceded by||Amartya Sen|
|Succeeded by||Vijay P. Bhatkar|
|Minister for Foreign Affairs|
12 August 2004 – 20 May 2011
|Prime Minister||Lee Hsien Loong|
|Preceded by||Shunmugam Jayakumar|
|Succeeded by||K. Shanmugam|
|Minister for Trade and Industry|
3 June 1999 – 12 August 2004
|Prime Minister||Goh Chok Tong|
|Succeeded by||Lim Hng Kiang|
|Minister for Health|
2 January 1994 – 25 January 1997
|Prime Minister||Goh Chok Tong|
|Preceded by||Yeo Cheow Tong|
|Succeeded by||Yeo Cheow Tong|
|Minister for Information and the Arts|
1 July 1991 – 2 June 1999
Acting: 28 November 1990-30 June 1991
|Prime Minister||Goh Chok Tong|
|Preceded by||Yeo Ning Hong|
|Succeeded by||Lee Yock Suan|
|Member of Parliament|
for Aljunied GRC (Bedok Reservoir-Punggol)
3 September 1988 – 7 May 2011
|Preceded by||Constituency created|
|Succeeded by||Low Thia Khiang (WP)|
|Born||13 September 1954|
|Political party||People's Action Party (1988-2011)|
|Spouse(s)||Jennifer Leong Lai Peng (梁利平)|
|Alma mater||Harvard University Christ's College, Cambridge|
|Branch/service|| Singapore Army|
Republic of Singapore Air Force
|Years of service||1976-1988|
|Commands||Chief of Staff (Air Staff) (1985-86)|
George Yeo Yong-Boon (Chinese: 杨荣文; pinyin: Yáng Róngwén; born 13 September 1954) is a Singaporean business executive and 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). He is based in both Hong Kong and Singapore.
Yeo lost his Member of Parliament seat in 2011 Singapore general election. He 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 by the opposition Workers' Party (helmed 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 (1990–99), Health (1994–97), Trade and Industry (1999–2004) and Foreign Affairs (2004–11). He declined to participate in the 2011 Singaporean presidential election. V3 Group announced on 23 August 2020 that Yeo will join as a senior advisor. Yeo is an independent board director of Hong Kong-listed AIA and Nasdaq-listed e-commerce platform Pinduoduo, the largest agriculture platform in China.
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.
On 10 May 2011, Yeo announced that he was retiring from active politics.
Yeo received his primary school education at St. Stephen's School. 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.
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.
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. He also led the team which conceptualised the SAFTI Military Institute.
Yeo was promoted to the rank of Brigadier-General in 1988, but in August that year, he resigned from the SAF to enter Parliament.
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. He also oversaw the design and construction of the Esplanade Theatres on the Bay and the new National Library.
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.
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. Yeo proposed the idea of having Integrated Resorts (IRs) in Singapore, which would include casinos, which was intensely debated for a year. 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'.)
Yeo represented the Eurasian community in the Cabinet at their request. Yeo was the chairman of the PAP's youth wing from 1991 to 2000, 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.
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 the loss of his ministerial appointment. 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.
On 5 October 2011, Yeo stepped down from the PAP's Central Executive Committee (the party's governing body). 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. He although stated on his Facebook page that he was "thinking hard" about the possibility of becoming a candidate on 1 June, but however, on 15 June, Yeo confirmed that he declined standing for presidency.
Post political career
Yeo was involved in reviving the ancient Buddhist university, Nalanda University, in Bihar, India. He was Chancellor of Nalanda University and member of the University Governing Board, 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.
Yeo has moved to the private sector in Hong Kong since leaving politics in 2011. Yeo joined the Kuok Group as Senior Advisor, and vice chairman of its subsidiary Kerry Group (HK) Pte Ltd in January 2012.
In August 2012, he became chairman and executive director of Kerry Logistics Network. He is also a director of Kerry Holdings and non-executive director of Wilmar International. Yeo also serves as the non-executive director of AIA Group since November 2012.
In 2013, Yeo was recently appointed as a non-official member of the newly established Hong Kong Economic Development Commission.
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(IAB).
He also takes the following advisory roles in Singapore:
- Advisor to the Sun Yat Sen Nanyang Memorial Hall
- Advisor to the Teochew Poit Ip Huay Kuan
- Patron of Lasalle College of the Arts
V3 Group announced on 23 August 2020 that George Yeo will join as Senior Advisor. He acts as an independent board director of Hong Kong-listed AIA and Nasdaq-listed e-commerce platform Pinduoduo, the largest agriculture platform in China.
Awards and recognition
In 2012, Yeo was awarded the Padma Bhushan, by India, the Order of Sikatuna, with the rank of Datu (Grand Cross), by the Philippines, and the Honorary Officer of the Order of Australia, by Australia.
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).
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