Humanitarian doctor and Singapore exile, Dr Ang Swee Chai wins Mulan’s Award

By Tan Wah Piow

Once again, the charitable work of Dr Ang Swee Chai is recognised by the international community. This time, she is the Winner of Mulan’s Award for outstanding charitable work.

Mulan is a UK charity aimed at encouraging Chinese women to use their talents and skills to help others and play a bigger role in the wider community.

In voting her as this year’s winner, the organisation acknowledges Dr Ang as a great role model for British Chinese women in the United Kingdom because her humanitarian work in support of the Palestinian refugees.

Lai Mei Sim OBE DL and Chair of Mulan said: “Despite her busy schedules as a full-time surgeon in a NHS hospital, she was able to pursue her humanitarian work over three decades, often exposing herself to dangers in war-torn areas. Her efforts have made a material difference to thousands of Palestinian refugees, and her charity work is known, and appreciated by all Palestinians.”


The Award Ceremony took place at the House of Lord. Dr Ang, unfortunately was unable to attend the event due to an accident last week. Chew Beng Lan, her fellow exile in London and old friend from Singapore received the award on her behalf and deliver Dr Ang’s message at the ceremony. The award is presented by Dr Ng Mee Ling OBE, who is a great admirer of Dr Ang Swee Chai.

Below is the message from Dr Ang:

“Lord Clement Jones, Madam Lai Mei Sim, Mulan Trustees, and distinguished guests.

Please forgive me for not being in a fit state to attend – having just had a nasty accident and a three hour operation. But what a pleasant shock of being contacted to receive the Mulan Award! Thank you for this great honour.

My mother had taught me always to remember the source of the water we drink, so coming together with the Mulan Foundation reminds me of my roots. My mother resisted the Japanese Occupation of Singapore and spent several years as a prisoner of war. She also gave me the genes to look Chinese so that I am always Doctora Sine (the Chinese Woman Doctor) whenever I am in the refugee camps in the Middle East. She also taught me Chinese history. Even well into the early twentieth century Chinese women had been in lowly and eclipsed positions, but there were those who stood up to be counted like Mulan. She was not only a daughter and son together but also the protector of China. Please allow me to recall her story for my distinguished non-Chinese friends.  Mulan was the only daughter of an elderly father. To protect him from being called up to fight in the North-Western Front, she dressed up as a young man and went in his place. Please read the rest of her exciting life. She is my favourite heroine.  I know I can never live up to her courage and calling.

I am therefore extremely humbled to receive this award and in so doing remember the many women world-wide who are shaping a better world through their generous self-giving and courage. These are women who not only fought their own battle for emancipation, but also made emancipation a collective issue for all humanity. Without them many of us will not be here today.”

Dr Ang is a self-imposed exile who had to live out of Singapore due to the Internal Security Department’s desire to arrest her husband, Francis Khoo.

Francis Khoo was a human rights lawyer. He was one of five persons who attempted to save the Singapore Herald, a liberal newspaper. Together with G Raman, Francis also defended two marine workers who were charged with Tan Wah Piow for rioting in the early 1970s. He fled to England when his friends, including G Raman were arrested and imprisoned without trial under the Internal Security Act in February 1977.

Dr Ang is unable to return to Singapore as Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) refuse to assure her that her Singapore citizenship will not be stripped from her due to having two citizenships when she enters the country.

Read here for why Dr Ang holds her dual-citizenship here.

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