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Cheo Chai Chen, former Nee Soon Central SMC MP of SDP passed away at age 75

Mr Cheo Chai Chen, former SDP Member of Parliament for Nee Soon Central SMC, passed away on 4 June. SDP Vice-Chairman Bryan Lim Boon Heng recalled Mr Cheo’s resilience during the tough 2001 election campaign, where he faced political pressure with veteran composure.



SINGAPORE: Mr Cheo Chai Chen (蒋才正), who served as a Member of Parliament for Nee Soon Central Single Member Constituency (SMC) under the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) from 1991 to 1997, passed away on Tuesday (4 June) at age 75.

The heartbreaking news was initially shared by Bryan Lim Boon Heng, Vice-Chairman of the SDP, in a poignant Facebook post. Mr Lim’s post did not disclose the cause of Mr Cheo’s demise.

Recalling his initial foray into politics during the 2001 elections, Mr Lim reminisced about being assigned to the SDP’s candidates for Hong Kah GRC  led by Mr Cheo.

“He would affectionately call me “贤弟” or “good brother” during the campaign & treated me like one.”

Mr Lim recounted the formidable campaign waged alongside Mr Cheo and other SDP candidates against the relentless mudslinging and defamation threats from the PAP, magnified by the controlled media establishment.

Despite the intense pressure, Mr Cheo, as the team leader, remained steadfast and composed, displaying the demeanour of a seasoned veteran.

Beneath his calm exterior resided a bold and determined leader who exemplified crisis management when circumstances demanded, Mr Lim added.

“Please rest in peace, Big Brother. The fire of democracy will continue to burn and will last forever,” Mr Lim mourned the loss of his former SDP comrade.

As of the morning of 5 June, both SDP and the National Solidarity Party, which Mr Cheo contested in past elections under their banner, have yet to issue an official statement regarding his passing.


After graduating from Nanyang University with a degree from the Department of Government and Public Administration, Mr Cheo ventured into politics during the 1988 general election, where he contested in Nee Soon Central SMC but faced defeat against the governing People’s Action Party (PAP) candidate, Ng Pock Too.

Undeterred by his initial setback, the former businessman persisted and ran again in the 1991 general election under the banner of the SDP, challenging Ng once more.

This time, Mr Cheo secured victory, clinching 50.3% of the votes against Ng’s 49.7%.

His triumph marked a significant milestone for the SDP, coinciding with then-party chief Chiam See Tong’s retention of his seat in Potong Pasir and Ling How Doong’s victory in Bukit Gombak.

Alongside the success of Mr Low Thia Khiang from the Workers’ Party in Hougang, these victories signalled a notable shift in Singapore’s political landscape in the early 1990s.

In 1994, Mr Chiam resigned from his position as the SDP’s leader following a dispute with the party’s Central Executive Committee.

The negative publicity surrounding this internal conflict impacted the SDP’s performance in the subsequent 1997 general election, where Mr Cheo was defeated by the PAP’s Ong Ah Heng in his bid for re-election.

In 2001, Mr Cheo contested as a member of the SDP’s team in the Hong Kah GRC. However, the PAP emerged victorious in the contest with 79.7% of the votes against the SDP team’s 20.3%.

Continuing his political journey, Mr Cheo joined the National Solidarity Party (NSP) in 2006.

He contested in the Jalan Besar GRC during the 2006 general election and later in 2015 stood against the PAP’s candidate, Ms Tin Pei Ling, in MacPherson SMC.

In May 2021, Mr Ling How Doong, former Chairman of the SDP from 1984 to 2007 and former MP for Bukit Gombak SMC, passed away at the age of 85. The SDP described Mr Ling as a ‘tireless defender of the rights of workers,’ highlighting his consistent advocacy for the protection of the needy and vulnerable in Singapore.

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