Francis Seow, Francis T Seow(Chinese: 萧添寿;born 1928) is a Singapore-born political dissident who is in exile from Singapore after lawsuits by the former Prime Minister Lee Kwan Yew. He was educated at Saint Joseph's Institution in Singapore and at the Middle Temple in London. Seow is currently a United States citizen residing in Massachusetts, and was a Visiting Fellow at Harvard Law School.
Seow joined the Singapore Legal Service in 1956 and rose through the ranks to become Solicitor-General in 1969, a position he held until 1971. During his career he served under the administration of then Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew and was appointed senior counsel to a Commission of Inquiry in the Secondary IV examination boycott by Chinese students in 1963 prior to Singapore's entry into Malaysia. For his work, Seow was awarded the Public Administration (Gold) Medal. He eventually left public service and entered into private law practice in 1972.
He was later suspended from law practice for 12 months by Chief Justice Wee Chong Jin for breach of an undertaking given on behalf of his junior law partner to the Attorney-General while in private practice. Nonetheless, he was later elected a member of the Council of the Law Society in 1976 and eventually became its President in 1986.
His new appointment led to a falling out with Lee Kuan Yew after he became embroiled in the politics surrounding the role of the Law Society. He had envisaged a restoration of the role of the Law Society to, inter alia, comment on legislation that the government was then churning out without any meaningful parliamentary debate, a role which Prime Minister Lee took especial exception to. In the result, Prime Minister Lee caused special legislation to be passed depriving the Law Society, inter alia, of any powers to comment on any legislation unless the government specifically asks the Law Society for its comments. He ran for the Parliament of Singapore as part of the Workers' Party team that contested the Eunos Group Representation Constituency in the 1988 Singapore general election. However, his team managed to secure 49.11% of valid votes, "losing marginally" to the PAP stronghold.
Macabre political intrigues followed the post-election excitement. Just before the election, he was detained without trial under the Internal Security Act for 72 days, accused of having received funds from the United States and advice for the purpose of promoting democracy in Singapore. According to his account, he was subjected to torture, including sleep deprivation and intense cold air-conditioning. During the elections, he was criticised as being an American stooge. Later, while awaiting trial for alleged tax evasion, he left the country and was convicted in absentia. These events are alleged by many to have been politically motivated, and part of a pattern of lawsuits and criminal proceedings against dissenters in Singapore. Despite his exile he has spoken at events organized by Singapore student societies in universities outside of Singapore.
Seow has a son and a daughter.
Francis Seow tells his story in the semi-autobiographical To Catch a Tartar: A Dissident in Lee Kuan Yew's prison. In the book, Seow recounts his career in the legal service, opposition politics and his personal experience of being detained by the Internal Security Department. He also accuses the government of Singapore of authoritarianism and human rights abuses under then Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew. The book also contains a foreword by former Singapore President Devan Nair that is equally critical of the Singapore government. Since then Seow has written another book, The Media Enthralled, which describes how he believes the Singapore government undermined freedom of the media and turned them into pro-government mouthpieces. He is also author of Beyond Suspicion? - The Singapore Judiciary.
1. YouTube - Francis Seow : The Interview