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Remembering Professor Lee Poh Ping

It is with a heavy heart that we, the family of scholars at the Institute of China Studies, University of Malaya, wishes to inform our associates and friends of the passing way on 21st November 2016, of our beloved Professor Lee Poh Ping.

Professor Lee was a dear colleague, mentor, and friend to all of us. As a scholar, he was inquisitive and vigorous in his intellectual inquiries. And as an acquaintance, he lived life to the fullest, sharing generously his many blessings. Professor Lee will be deeply missed by the ICS family.

Passing of a gentle scholar

Professor Lee Poh Ping, a quiet and effective advisor for Asialink

Professor Lee Poh Ping


He was a kind and tactful gentleman, an inspiring teacher, and a brilliant scholar of modern Japan and China, particularly Northeast Asia-Southeast Asia relations.

Lowell Dittmer, Professor of Political Science, University of California-Berkeley and editor, Asian Survey

Lee Poh Ping......, never focused on his own achievements; his concern seemed to be with promoting his colleagues and the institutions where he worked. He was deeply interested in his own country – including in Malay history and diplomacy – but was especially determined to maintain the international horizons of the institutions where he worked, at the University of Malaya and University Kebangsaan Malaysia.

Anthony Milner, International Director, Asialink and Professor Emeritus at Australian National University

As an outstanding scholar on East Asia, particularly on Japan and China, I have received from him myriads of solid convictions and piercing suggestions on history issues. What always stays in my memory, as unforgettable words of his, is his repeated reference to a phrase of George Orwell: ‘Who controls the past controls the future.

H. E. Dr Makio Miyagawa, Ambassador of Japan to Malaysia

Prof Lee was a scholar and a gentleman, in all the senses of those words. His knowledge, mentoring and enthusiasm for his research, his colleagues and his discipline will be greatly missed.

Kevin Hewison, FASSA, Weldon E. Thornton Distinguished Professor of Asian Studies (Emeritus),University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Editor-in-Chief, Journal of Contemporary Asia

Poh-ping, as I usually called this old friend and excellent scholar of East Asian studies, especially China and Japan, had never failed to impress anyone with his intelligent scrutiny and humane heart. In 30 years of close association, unforgettable was long and good arguments we had almost every day while I was up to Universiti Malaya in the early 1980’s from which I learned a lot about Malaysian Chinese, Malaysia, Southeast Asia, Asia and the global problems.

Yuji Suzuki, Emeritus Professor, Hosei University, Tokyo, Japan, and Deputy Director of National Federation of UNESCO Associations in Japan

My deepest condolence to the bereaved.

I met Dr. Lee Poh Ping at his office on the UM campus in 1977 when I travelled Southeast Asia for the first time in my life. In the following year I spent a year at UM as visiting fellow. Poh Ping often took me to Chinese restaurants in PJ and KL. His favorite Volkswagen looked a little bit too small for him. Most of Malaysian friends of mine were introduced by him. Since then four decades have passed. Many things changed, but our friendship did not.

The news on Poh Ping’s sudden death was shocking and saddening. Of course, it was too early. It is also regretful that my small contribution to Japanese Relations with ASEAN since the Fukuda Doctrine became my last collaboration with Poh Ping. At the same time, however, I have kept remembering joyous days in Malaysia on the last few days. When I lost the chance to say thank him again, I realized how much I owed Dr. Lee Poh Ping.

Professor Susumu Yamakage, Aoyama Gakuin University, Japan

Poh Ping and I studied at Cornell University in the late 1960s and early 1970s. He was a kind of person who always cared about his long-time friends even though he may not have met them often. In the last email he sent me a year ago, he said “I decided to try reconnecting with old friends from my Cornell days” and kindly forwarded me a message for me from one of our mutual friends. His tall figure with a slightly stooped posture arguing passionately about Malaysian politics will be forever etched in my memory.

Professor Tsuyoshi Kato, Professor Emeritus of Kyoto University, Japan

We are deeply saddened by the untimely passing of Prof. Dr. Lee Poh Ping.

Prof. Lee was an exemplary academic who contributed to enhancing understanding of Japanese politics and society among Malaysian academics, policy-makers as well as the general public. Prof. Lee was a good friend for many Japanese academics who specialize in Malaysia and Southeast Asia. Prof. Lee also opened up the intellectual horizon of many Japanese young scholars who benefitted from his mentoring.

His legacy as an academic, mentor and friend will forever be cherished .

Japan Association of Malaysian Studies (JAMS)

Prof. Lee Poh Ping was my mentor, and my friend. My research trip to KL always entailed pleasurable moments to immerse myself in extensive discussion with him.

Poh Ping would drive his blue Honda to the Lake Club or UM Staff's House in PJ. He always ordered black tea. Our meeting started from sizzling hot noon, continued to gently drizzling evening. His never-depleting curiosity let our topics drift away from East Asian international relations, Japanese peace constitution, life as a female academic to gossiping about our mutual friends. Piercing sharp questions were asked. Affirming nod and smile followed. This is how our co-authored paper was conceptualized, revised and refined.

Ayame SUZUKI, Associate Professor, Doshisha University, Japan

Prof. Lee Poh Ping was my mentor, and my friend. My research trip to KL always entailed pleasurable moments to immerse myself in extensive discussion with him.

I had only known Poh Ping about four years, perhaps less. We met on two subsequent occasions. Yet he made a deep, indelible impression on me. He was kindness personified: supportive, generous, warm, appreciative and so, so encouraging. From the beginning it was almost as if I was in the presence of an old friend. By the time of our last meeting, just before he died, it felt as if he was indeed an old friend. A gentle man with an avuncular air, he was possessed of a shrewd and insightful intellect, someone who always had something interesting to say, albeit said with great modesty and humility. He was the antithesis of pomposity. And he had an impish sense of humour. I thought, when I bid him farewell in early November, that I would see him again soon and that our friendship, personal and intellectual, was set fair for a long time to come. Sadly I was wrong. Goodbye, Poh Ping. It was too soon, much too soon. I will miss you.

Martin Jacques, Senior Fellow, Department of Politics and International Studies, Cambridge University and Visiting Professor, Tsinghua University
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