Archiver > WORLD-OBITS > 2005-07 > 1120582504

From: "Peter_McCrae" <>
Subject: YEO; Yok Cheang-2004-CHINESE/UK
Date: Tue, 5 Jul 2005 17:55:04 +0100

K C Yeo
(Filed: 13/11/2004)

K C Yeo, who has died aged 101, gave up a chance to escape from Hong Kong in
order to keep the colony's medical services running after the Japanese
invasion in 1941.

He and his wife were planning to join relations in China when Sir Selwyn
Selwyn-Clarke, the director of medical services, implored him to stay.
Selwyn-Clarke said that he was going to be imprisoned soon, leaving Yeo the
only man capable of running the colony's health and hygiene, a field in
which the Japanese had no expertise and little interest.

After Selwyn-Clarke's arrest on a charge of being the head of British
espionage, two members of the Kempitei, the Japanese secret service, barged
into Yeo's bedroom with a large Alsatian; they demanded that he come with
them to "identify a body". He was taken to a police station for questioning
and thrown into a bare windowless cell, 8ft by 5ft. For more than two months
Yeo was held in solitary confinement. He was then moved to a cell next to
the Reverend George Shea, an Anglican chaplain with whom he started to pray
and sing hymns. Eventually he was released to work at the Bacteriological
Institute, although shadowed wherever he went. With his family he was
baptised as a member of the Church of England.

Kok Cheang Yeo was born at Penang, Malaysia, on April 1 1903, the eldest of
a Chinese rubber plantation worker's nine children. One of his childhood
memories was of borrowing his father's bicycle, which was so large that he
fell off into a waterway where a crocodile crept towards him as he lay in
the mud. The experience taught him the importance of not borrowing people's
property without permission.

Young Kok Cheang was an excellent gymnast and weight-lifter; for some years,
he claimed, he held the world record for sit-ups for his body weight.
Following school in Penang he did his medical studies at Hong Kong
University, then came to Britain to study tropical medicine in Liverpool and
public health at Cambridge.

After qualifying with honours in both subjects, Yeo applied to the Colonial
Office to become an assistant medical officer of health in Hong Kong. On his
arrival in the colony, the local government discovered he had been given the
contract of an Englishman, which included nine months' leave in England with
full pay and first-class travel every four years, rather than the
fortnight's holiday a year for local staff. But when the Colonial Office
realised their mistake, they insisted on sticking to their word, thereby
turning Yeo into a staunch Anglophile.

After the war, Yeo was promoted to deputy director of health services, when
he helped to plan the 1,000-bed Queen Elizabeth Hospital at Kowloon, then
was the first Chinese to become director of medical and health services. It
was under his directorship that the BCG vaccination against TB was
introduced; malaria was stamped out. He also helped to found a leper colony
on Hayling Chao Island.

In addition he was appointed Professor of Social Medicine at Hong Kong
University, and became a member of the Legislative Council. In 1956, Yeo was
delighted to be appointed CMG before retiring to Britain in 1958. For the
next 10 years, he practised as a psychiatrist at St Ebba's Hospital at Epsom
in Surrey before settling in Sussex.

K C Yeo married, in 1933, Florence, the daughter of the comprador Sir Robert
Ho-tung. She survives him with their son and two daughters.

© Copyright of Telegraph Group Limited 2005.

This thread: