Friday, 20 June 2014

A portrait of the struggling life of Chiam Chong Chian

The following is a loose translation of the biography of Chiam Chong Chian, who was an underground CPM cadre leader in Malaya during the 1950s.

Born in Kuantan, Pahang, Malaya in 1931, Chiam Chong Chian was a Malayan son that died on PRC soil because of the tumultuous struggle for independence and the battle between nationalists and communism during the 1950s and 1960s.

Chiam was the third child in a Hainanese family of six children. His father came to Malaya at the end of the 19th century, first becoming a baker and later a plantation supervisor.

Chiam was only 11 or 12 when the Japanese invaded Malaya during WWII. During that time, Chiam followed his family to hide in jungle and began to lived off the land. He joined the adults in hunting, fishing and delivering supplies while entertainment was Chinese classic stories of the Three Kingdoms and Water Margin.

In 1946, after the war had ended, Chiam returned to school in Kuantan and a year later enrolled in Chinese High Singapore. Not only were Chiam's results good, he was also charismatic and well-liked by fellow students. He was surrounded by a group of close friends who would later become his comrades. Many of these friends would later end up as liaison officials (with overseas Chinese) in China after the Chinese Communists took power.

1950 was a watershed year for Chiam who was senior high year 2. There was a surge in anti-colonial sentiments and seniors like him began to infect the younger ones in Chinese High with the need for Malaya's independence.

As the waves of anti-colonialism continued unabated, authorities began the clamp down of student activism with the closing of Chinese High, shutting down of student organizations, arresting progressive teachers and students and the expulsion of 50 senior high school student activists with Chiam being one of them.

On May 31, 1950, when military police surrounded the school to arrest them, Chiam was hidden in the school canteen by student sympathizers and managed to escape the school. As the surrounding area of Chinese High were houses of wealthy residents who typically employed Hainanese as housekeepers, Chiam was able to escape the dragnet by seeking help from his kinsmen.

From then on, Chiam bade farewell to his student life and joined the communist underground to battle against the British colonial power and achieve independence for Malaya.

In 1951, Chiam returned to Kuantan to teach in a primary school. He was humble, well-liked and earned the respect of the students. On the side, Chiam continued to work for the Communist Party of Malaya and received instructions to carry out reporting and research for the party.

In 1952, Chiam began to be tasked by the party to carry out organization work and operations. As he was passionate, responsible and honest, he was trusted by the party and began to take on more responsibilities. Under Chiam's leadership, the political environment began to open up and progress was made with mobilization of the masses.

In the early 1960s, Lee Kuan Yew began to work in cahoots with the British colonial power to exterminate the communists. Chiam was forced under these circumstances to escape to Indonesia.

When in Indonesia, he faced immense difficulties as he was unfamiliar with the country and did not speak the language. The 30 Sep 1965 purging of the Communists, where tens of thousands of Indonesian Communists were killed by the Indonesian military, made his situation increasingly unbearable.

To exacerbate matters, Cultural Revolution erupted in China and Chiam was criticized for his previous actions. He was criticized for his wrongdoings, forced to apologized and ostracized from the party. But he was said to be steadfast and hung on to his beliefs, never betrayed his comrades even though he was exiled from the party and lead a precarious life.

The only consolation Chiam had was in the mid-1990s when CPM leader Chin Peng met Chiam in a Guangzhou hotel. Chin reverted previous criticisms of Chiam and reaffirmed Chiam's lifetime commitment to the Communist cause.

Chiam passed away on Apr 26, 1998, due to multiple illnesses. He was 68 years old.

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