KUALA LUMPUR, MALAYSIA — Bock Tai Hee, a prominent figure in the Malaysian Chinese education movement, passed away on Friday (16 June), at the age of 79.
The United Chinese School Committees’ Association of Malaysia (Dong Zong) announced this heartbreaking news on its official Facebook page
“We deeply mourn the passing of Mr. Bock, who has left this world at the age of 79.”
Mr. Bock was diagnosed with COVID-19 in May
Last month, on the 19th, Mr. Bock was diagnosed with COVID-19, which led to a lung infection. He was immediately admitted to the hospital for urgent treatment.
On Monday (12 June), a Facebook update was posted on Mr. Bock’s page, managed by his family members, stating that he was in intensive care at the hospital and visits from outsiders were not recommended at that time to prevent secondary infections.
On Friday, Oriental Daily, a Malaysian Chinese media outlet, reported that Mr. Bock’s son confirmed his father’s passing at 12:50 pm at Hospital Canselor Tuanku Muhriz UKM (HUKM).
“Guardian of Malaysia’s Chinese Education”
Mr. Bock, known as a “guardian of Chinese education,” was born during turbulent times.
In 1942, due to World War II, his grandfather relocated the entire family from Malacca to seek refuge in Medan, Indonesia, where Mr. Bock was born in 1944.
The following year, his grandfather brought him back to Hainan Island, and it wasn’t until 1952 that he returned to Malacca.
During his secondary school years, he greatly admired Lim Lian Geok, a Chinese teacher who fought for the rights of Malayan Chinese to receive education in their mother tongue.
Mr. Bock graduated from the Chemistry Department of Nanyang University. In 1968, he took up a teaching position at Seremban Chung Hua Middle School.
However, his teaching career only lasted for eight years.
Detained under ISA in 1975
In a 2021 interview with Oriental Daily, Mr. Bock recalled being detained for 60 days in 1975 under the Internal Security Act (ISA) simply because of his involvement in advocating for Chinese education, which labeled him as a ‘dangerous individual’.
Later, he was confined to detention in Port Dickson, where he and his wife and children lived for four years, during which he had to run a “you char kueh” (Chinese fried dough) business to support his family.
After the end of his detention in Port Dickson in 1981, he moved to Kuala Lumpur and assumed the position of Chief Executive Officer of Dong Zong, serving in that role until his retirement in 2006.
He never truly retired and continued to travel between independent Chinese schools, sharing stories about Chinese education.