Business leader Sia Yong, 90, dies after heart attack

Retired business leader Sia Yong, who founded the Singa-Sino Friendship Association to promote ties between the peoples of Singapore and China, was on his way to the Tanglin Club to have his daily glass of whisky last Saturday when he had a heart attack.

He died later in hospital. He was 90.

His death took former journalist and retired diplomat Pang Cheng Lian, who had known Mr Sia since the early 1970s, by surprise.

Said the 72-year-old: "I saw him only 10 days ago at the club for Chinese New Year and he was looking good. I was very surprised to hear news of his death and that he didn't make it to the club for the last time on Saturday."

Going to the Tanglin Club every afternoon had been a daily routine for Mr Sia since he retired as vice-chairman of the former Sim Lim group of companies more than 25 years ago.

He took up several public roles while leading the group, including as chairman of the Singapore National Shippers Council and president of the Real Estate Developers' Association of Singapore in the 1970s and 1980s.

He was also a council member of the Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

Born in Fujian in south-east China and the son of a Kuomintang intelligence officer, he left China at age eight withhis father for Penang. They moved to Singapore during the Japanese Occupation.

He worked as, among other things, a mechanic, egg seller and sailor before becoming a reporter after the war in 1945 at the now- defunct Nanyang Siang Pau newspaper.

Retired journalist and war correspondent Chin Kah Chong, 85, said Mr Sia's 11-year-old career with the Chinese daily ended abruptly in 1956 when the British colonial government arrested him for his strong support of the left-wing politician and trade union leader Lim Chin Siong.

He was remanded for 40 days and freed on condition he would not work for a newspaper again.

Mr Sia moved to Kuala Lumpur to work for Lam Soon, manufacturer of edible oil and other food products, for a few years before returning to Singapore to join the former Sim Lim group in the 1960s.

He founded the Singa-Sino Friendship Association in 1993 and was its president till he stepped down in 2006. A year ago, he published his collection of 28 modern poems in Chinese. The father of two sons and two daughters was cremated on Monday.

Said Mr Chin: "Mr Sia was always friendly and approachable and a knowledgeable friend who could speak to you on any subject."