Friday, 27 October 2017

The politics of power dressing

Update 15 Aug 2019: “She really needs a stylist” – More photos of Ho Ching wearing ‘inappropriate’ sandals at official functions circulate online
Mdm Ho’s choice of footwear at official events has been criticised as “sloppy” and “disgraceful” by several Singaporeans

More photos of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s wife Ho Ching wearing open-toed sandals at official functions are circulating online. Interestingly, Mdm Ho stands in stark contrast to the other individuals in all the pictures who wear covered shoes.

Wearing open-toed shoes to official events is widely considered inappropriate. Despite this, open-toed sandals seem to be Mdm Ho’s preferred choice of footwear no matter where she is – even if she is accompanying her husband at official events in Singapore and overseas.

Mdm Ho’s choice of footwear at official events has been criticised as “sloppy” and “disgraceful” by several Singaporeans.


Ho Ching sports open toed sandals and is the only dignitary to do so at the National Day celebrations
Many felt Madam Ho's choice of footwear stood out like a sore thumb on such a momentous occasion and this isn't the first time she has chosen to do so

Besides her marriage to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and her career as chief executive of Singapore’s sovereign wealth fund, Ho Ching is perhaps most well known for her sense of style – or lack thereof.

Mdm Ho’s choice of footwear has particularly irked Singaporeans time and again after she sported open-toed sandals that have been criticised as “sloppy” and “disgraceful” to official events. During the National Day celebrations last weekend, Mdm Ho stood out as the only one wearing open-toed sandals as she posed with foreign dignitaries who graced the National Day Parade (NDP).

Wearing open-toed shoes to official events is widely considered inappropriate. Despite this, open-toed sandals seem to be Mdm Ho’s preferred choice of footwear no matter where she is – even if she is accompanying her husband at official events in Singapore and overseas.


Ho Ching’s sloppy sandals spotted at yet another high-profile event with foreign dignitaries
Ho Ching's rather inappropriate footwear stood out starkly in contrast to her outfit with netizens taking to Facebook to post their comments on this

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s wife Ho Ching decided to wear open-toed sandals to yet another high profile event with foreign dignitaries last week, despite widespread criticism over her sloppy dressing sense.

On Thursday (11 July), PM Lee and Mdm Ho made an appearance at the President’s Annual Diplomatic Reception 2019. The event, hosted by President Halimah Yacob at the Istana, was attended by nearly 300 heads of diplomatic and consular missions, along with the representatives of international organisations and their spouses.

PM Lee published photos from the event on his Facebook page and said that the event was an important one, through which Singapore deepened its friendship with fellow nations. He wrote: “Many thanks to our guests for helping us deepen friendships with many countries, and helping Singapore shine a little brighter.”


Lee Hsien Loong Like This Page · July 10

Met our Honorary Consuls-General and their spouses today. Honorary Consuls-General are mostly foreign citizens appointed by us to represent Singapore and perform consular functions in major cities where we don’t have a resident diplomatic presence. This week they are (nearly) all meeting in Singapore for the 8th time, and for the first time we have a special programme for the spouses.

Nearly half the HCGs have served a decade or more. Some among them are even second generation HCGs, whose fathers had also been HCGs!

Thank you all for your dedication and service, for building closer ties between Singapore and your own countries. I hope you have a wonderful and fruitful time here! – LHL


Where are my Sandals?
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Mrs Lee (far left) were among the foreign leaders and their spouses hosted to a welcome banquet by Chinese President Xi Jinping and his wife Peng Liyuan

Li Hongyi mirrors his mother Ho Ching’s dressing sense; wears slippers to formal event
Many netizens have pointed out that Hongyi’s slippers mirror what seems to be his mother’s preferred footwear – open-toed sandals

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s son Li Hongyi is making waves once again – but not necessarily for all the right reasons.

The son of Lee and Singapore sovereign wealth fund Temasek’s CEO Ho Ching, Hongyi presently serves as deputy director of product and engineering at the Government Technology Agency of Singapore (GovTech).

At what appears to be a recent talk, Hongyi was captured on camera wearing flip-flops instead of more formal, closed-toe footwear. Netizens circulating the picture on social media and messaging platforms like WhatsApp are alleging that the picture was taken at a recent IT talk.

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Ho Ching’s sloppy sandals, PAP, and Lee Kuan Yew not spared in Miss Universe Singapore 2018 Photoshop Battle

The highly-criticised Miss Universe Singapore 2018 national costume has spawned a photoshop battle on social media, drawing submissions from dozens of netizens.

Some of those who took part in the photoshop battle replaced the digital image on the skirt of the dress with notable Singapore icons, foods and prominent figures, while others used other creative images to create an optical illusion.

This year’s Miss Universe Singapore national costume drew immense flak when it was unveiled yesterday. Designed by Moe Kasim, this year’s dress depicts the US-North Korea summit that was held in Singapore in July this year.

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Ho Ching’s open-toed sandals make a comeback at two official functions in the past week
Besides her marriage to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and her career as chief executive of Singapore’s sovereign wealth fund, Ho Ching is perhaps most well known for her sense of style – or lack thereof

Ho Ching’s choice of footwear has particularly irked Singaporeans time and again after she sported open-toed sandals that have been criticised as “sloppy” and “disgraceful” to official events.

This past week, Ho Ching’s open-toed sandals made appearances at two official events. At the first event, Ho Ching wore a pair of light-colored open-toed sandals to the luxurious 33rd Asean summit gala dinner held last Wednesday (14 Nov).

The dinner, that was hosted by PM Lee, was graced by regional leaders like South Korea Prime Minister Moon Jae-In, Chinese premier Li Keqiang, Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Malaysia Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad and Burmese leader Aung San Suu Kyi, among others.

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Ho Ching’s “maid attire” at formal event exasperates netizens

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s wife Ho Ching is back in the news for her sloppy styling. This time, netizens are criticising the CEO of Temasek (Singapore’s sovereign wealth fund) for her “disgraceful” dressing at what appears to be a formal event, that many Singaporeans have likened to a “maid’s attire”.

In the picture above, Ho Ching stands in sharp contrast to the other people in the picture who are wearing formal suits. Even her husband is dressed in a black suit, as she stands apart in a green outfit.

Although it is unclear exactly where or when the picture above was taken, the photo has been trending online since it was shared on social media by Facebook users Jeanie Tifinny Tara and Jafri Basron, yesterday afternoon.

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Ho Ching’s “out of touch” outfit during visit with Mahathir irks Singaporeans

Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s wife Ho Ching’s dress sense has drawn flak from netizens once again, with many criticising what she wore during her visit across the causeway last week to meet Malaysian leader Mahathir.

Ho Ching, who serves as chief executive of Singapore’s sovereign wealth fund Temasek, wore a blue top and a pair of pink silk pants as she accompanied the head of government to meet Mahathir and his wife. Her outfit prompted several netizens to slam her sense of style and comment that she needs a stylist as soon as possible. Even PM Lee wasn’t spared with some netizens throwing shade about his shirt.

This isn’t the first time Ho Ching has drawn flak for her “sloppy” styling. In October last year, Ho Ching drew criticism when she was spotted wearing a pair of sandals when she accompanied her husband on his official visit to the United States of America to meet with US President Donald Trump at the White House

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Ho Ching’s sloppy sandals make an appearance during official US trip once again

Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s wife Ho Ching’s “sloppy” styling has made a comeback as she was spotted wearing sandals when she accompanied her husband on his official visit to the United States of America this week to meet with US President Donald Trump at the White House.

PM Lee, Foreign Affairs Minister Vivian Balakrishnan, Education Minister Ong Ye Kung, Minister for Trade and Industry S. Iswaran, Singapore’s Ambassador to the US Ashok Kumar Mirpuri and Mirpuri’s wife can all be seen dressed sharply, in the photo above, while Ho Ching stands out with her sandals.

The picture, which was posted on Minister Ong’s Facebook page, was taken outside Blair House, the official guest house of President Trump.


Dr Siew Tuck Wah 2 August 2016
Pic: Mark Wilson/ Getty Images, Instyle Magazine

Its a historic occasion for Singapore Prime minister Lee and wife Ho Ching to be invited to the White House. But while first lady Michelle Obama made headlines with a Naeen Khan bright yellow floral dress, Ho Ching really could have chose something, well, more cheery.

Fortunately Instyle Magazine was kind enough to only celebrate Michelle's getup, and keep silent about Ho Ching.

We need to get a stylist for her please.

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Viral Views: Ho Ching’s Fit Flops

NETIZENS with sharp eyes flew into a frenzy after seeing Ms Ho Ching wearing open-toe sandals during her visit at The White House.

Her outfit has led to a heated discussion on the popular website, HardwareZone – with a dedicated forum thread about her choice of footwear, garnering more than 40 comments. FYI, they’re called “fitflops” – a brand that specialises in comfy – if a bit auntie – footwear.

What's going viral? Ms Ho Ching’s outfit at The White House. Specifically, her choice of footwear.

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HO CHING WEARS SANDALS TO PRESIDENT TONY TAN'S FAREWELL PARTY, TOTAL LACK OF RESPECT?


I don't like President Tony Tan but it is shocking that the Prime Minister's wife will show him such disrespect by wearing sandals to his farewell ceremony. Is this event not a proper serious event?

You see all the other dignitaries wear formal clothes except for Ho Ching. Even her husband PM Lee wear formal and proper shoes. Why does she have this exemption to wear sandals to such serious events?

We are taught to show respect and maintain decorum in certain events, this is definitely one of them. Bad example we are setting for our younger Singaporeans. Next time let's all wear slippers for NS can?

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When it comes to powerful women and what they wear, everyone’s a critic
U.S. first lady Michelle Obama and Ho Ching, wife of Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, stand together during an official arrival ceremony on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, U.S. August 2, 2016. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

Think about the attention Theresa May’s kitten heels and her love for animal prints has received. Never mind the fact that she has more than 30 years of experience in British politics.

Most recently, netizens aspiring to join the fashion police took pot-shots at Ms Ho Ching’s choice of clothes during her visit to the United States with Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong this week.

In fact, Ms Ho’s fashion sense has been the subject of ridicule on social media for years. In September 2012, when hosting the Duke and Dutchess of Cambridge, she was dressed in an all-green pantsuit, that blogger mrbrown suggested makes her suitable for the role of DC Comics’ Green Lantern.

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We Don’t Need Our Leaders To Be Fashionable


Last week, Ho Ching, the wife of Singapore’s Prime Minister, received online criticism for the pantsuit that she wore to a dinner at the White House.

Amidst the milieu of social commentary, the distinct narrative which stood out was that Singaporeans were generally embarrassed by her lack of dress sense.

This is troubling given that outside of Singapore, no one really cared about our leader’s lack of fashion sense.

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Who Dressed Her?

I just saw the coverage of the royal visit and what stood out for me was how badly dressed Mdm. Ho Ching was. I don't even know where to begin.

First of all, shiny green fabrics are not your friend. They photograph badly. The pale green blouse is not complimenting her skin tone. In fact, she looks almost washed out and could disappear into the surrounding. Make up and hair ... do something about it. Whatever she is wearing is neither a business suit ensemble nor vaguely a national costume. At least the former Mrs. Lee Kwan Yew used to be dressed in nice cheongsams. I hate to say this, picture her pants as black, and the blouse as some navy blue, she could pass as some amah from the old days.

I wish Mdm Ho would take some pride in her appearance and while the media attention will be on William and Kate, nonetheless, when a friend of mine asked me who is that lady in green, I sheepishly said that i think it is the PM's house staff. I was embarassed to admit that she is the PM's wife. I know she is a smart woman and I believe she can do a lot better in her appearance, if she is going to be photographed in the media.

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In brightest day, in blackest night
Next_green_lantern

Warner Bros may offer role of Green Lantern to Ho Ching.

That said, when you are the world's third most powerful woman, you can wear whatever you want.

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White House State Dinner honouring PM Lee

Mdm Ho wore a kebaya with a gold-sparkly lace overlay

The much anticipated State Dinner at the White House hosted by President Barack Obama and Michelle Obama in honour of Singapore prime minister Lee Hsien Loong and wife Ho Ching on Aug 2 (US time) saw celebrities and members of the political elite from both countries on the guest list.

Arriving promptly at 7pm (US time; 7am SG time), Mr Lee and Mdm Ho were greeted by the Obamas at the White House North Portico. Mdm Ho wore a kebaya with a gold-sparkly lace overlay while the US First Lady was in an ivory dress designed by Brandon Maxwell – a longtime stylist to singer Lady Gaga and a red carpet favourite.

The couple were ushered into the White House and down the Grand Staircase for official photos before heading into the Blue Room.

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Michelle Obama wears gown by Gaga stylis
US First Lady Michelle Obama stands with Ho Ching, wife of Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, before a state dinner at the White House. Obama wore an unadorned ivory gown by American designer Brandon Maxwell. Photo: AFP

US first lady Michelle Obama opted for a strapless, unadorned ivory gown by American designer Brandon Maxwell, longtime stylist to singer Lady Gaga and a red carpet favorite, for Tuesday's state dinner (Aug 2) for the prime minister of Singapore.

The black-tie dinner in honor of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and his wife, Madam Ho Ching, was the 12th state dinner for the Obamas. It also marked the 50th anniversary of bilateral relations between the US and Singapore.

Maxwell, originally from Longview, Texas, earned his name as Lady Gaga's stylist, but has become a red carpet favorite, dressing stars like Gwyneth Paltrow, Kristen Wiig and Uma Thurman, among others.  He launched his ready-to-wear label in 2015.

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Singapore PM’s wife attends White House ceremony with $11 purse designed by student

President Barack Obama, right, and Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, are joined by their wives, Ho Ching, at left, and first lady Michelle Obama, for a photograph at the White House during the state dinner, Tuesday, Aug. 2, 2016, in Washington. Pic: AP

DESPITE coming from one of Asia’s wealthiest economies, the wife of Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has gained praise from the public after she appeared at the White House with a purse that cost less than SG$15 (roughly US$11) during the couple’s official visit to the United States.

The purse, carried by Mrs Lee during an official ceremony hosted by U.S. President Barack Obama and his wife Michelle, was sold at The Art Faculty in Singapore, an online store that sells artwork crafted by disabled and autistic students at the Pathlight School.

Under the program, students may receive royalties on sales of their designs and enhance their art skills.

related: Demand for low-priced ‘Dino’ purse soars after White House appearance

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What first ladies wore to state dinners, from Mamie Eisenhower to Michelle Obama

On evenings that celebrated diplomacy and cultural exchange, first ladies — including Jackie Kennedy and Nancy Reagan — often used the moment to wear garments by top designers of their time.

Aug. 2, 2016 President Obama, right, and first lady Michelle Obama, second from left, welcome Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and his wife, Ho Ching, in Washington. Michelle Obama’s dress is an ivory-colored strapless gown by the designer Brandon Maxwell. Zach Gibson/Agence France-Presse via Getty Images

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Netizens question Ho Ching's drab dressing at White House state dinner


“A sleeveless dress never looked so good.” That’s how Instyle Magazine, an online magazine on fashion updates, described First Lady Michelle Obama who together with her husband hosted Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and his wife Ho Ching to a state dinner at the White House.

The magazine said: “For the historic occasion, the 52-year-old wowed in a brilliant yellow Naeem Khan dress that featured intricate floral appliqué, a sleeveless halter-style neckline, and semi-sheer hemline. She paired the winning frock with a matching leather belt, nude heeled sandals, and emerald green statement earrings.”

Netizens were quick to point out the difference in dressing between Obama’s wife and Hsien Loong’s.

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Michelle Obama Glows in a Sunny Yellow Dress at the White House

Michelle Obama in Yellow Naeem Khan Dress

A sleeveless dress never looked so good. First Lady Michelle Obama and President Barack Obama welcomed the Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and his wife Ho Ching to the White House today, and the FLOTUS definitely brought her style A-game to the event.

For the historic occasion, the 52-year-old wowed in a brilliant yellow Naeem Khan dress that featured intricate floral appliqué, a sleeveless halter-style neckline, and semi-sheer hemline. She paired the winning frock with a matching leather belt, nude heeled sandals, and emerald green statement earrings. Michelle has been all about rocking vibrant hues as of late. This colorful and summer-ready ensemble follows the stunning royal blue number that she wore last week while giving an impassioned speech at the Democratic National Convention.

President Obama and the First Lady will host a state dinner in Prime Minister of Singapore's honor tonight, and we can't wait to see what she wears.

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Michelle Obama Is A Ray Of Sunshine At Historic Singapore Meeting

FLOTUS and Ho Ching, wife of Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, are escorted through the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.

Regardless of whether you’re voting for Trump or Clinton, let’s take a moment to bask in the glow of Michelle Obama while she’s still in the White House.

The first lady has been donning floral dresses lately ― in Madrid, in Cuba, at the Met Gala, at the Easter Egg Roll and to welcome Justin Trudeau, just to name a few.

On Tuesday, Obama welcomed Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and his wife, Ho Ching, to Washington, D.C., marking the first time the White House has hosted a state dinner for Singapore in 30 years. This time, the first lady plucked up a floral Guipure lace number from her go-to designer, New York City-based Naeem Khan.

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PM of Israel‏Verified account @IsraeliPM  Feb 20


PM Netanyahu & his wife Sara attended dinner with Singapore PM Lee Hsien Loong & his wife Ho Ching at the presidential palace in Singapore

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Ho Ching mistaken for tea lady at Shangri-La

At the 2013 Singapore-Indonesia Leaders retreat. Pic stolen from PM Lee's own facbeook page.
With the Indonesian Prime Minister and his wife. Pic stolen from PM Lee’s own facbeook page

Red faces were present throughout the 2013 Shangri-La Dialogue yesterday as Ho Ching was ordered by an unwitting waiter to wipe up spilt wine. While the wife of Singapore’s Prime Minister, Lee Hsien Loong who is also the head of Temasek Holdings obliged with nary a smile, Shangri-La management were clearly mortified.

“That white napkin was not meant to be anywhere near red wine!” said head waiter Philippe de Garcon. “It’s frightfully embarrassing that Mdm Ho now thinks that we don’t know the first thing about hospitality.”

According to attendees at the annual security dialogue, Ho later pulled the offending waiter aside and gave him pointers on how to clear up spilt fluids using just a quarter of a napkin. This would not be a first time Ho was not recognised as the most powerful mother in Singapore. Attendees of various functions ranging from the Chingay parade to Chinese New Year celebrations noted that Ho used to be mistaken for a lion dance troupe member due to her distaste for any article of clothing remotely feminine or flattering to the female form.

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Netizens go crazy over Ho Ching’s remarkable choice of purse

Ms Ho Ching, the CEO of Temasek Holdings and wife of Singapore's Prime Minister, Lee Hsien Loong, was spotted bringing a S$14.80 purse during her visit to the White House of United States. The purse is designed by a 19-year-old student, See Toh Sheng Jie who has been on Pathlight School’s Artist Development Programme (ADP).

Pathlight is a school for students with autism.

Ms Ho purchased the item at A Very Special Walk, a concert and funfair, an annual fundraising event by the Autism Resource Centre (ARC) held to raise funds for autism support services on 29 July.

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Mrs Lee Hsien Loong pens poem about bag she carried to meet Japan's royal couple

S'pore PM Lee Hsien Loong & his wife Ho Ching are seen off by Japanese Emperor Akihito & Empress Michiko after their luncheon at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's wife Ho Ching made international headlines in August when she showed up at the White House toting a $14.90 dinosaur-print pouch designed by an autistic student artist.

Her accessory choice during PM Lee's recent official visit to Japan is once again a talking point, after she wrote a poem sharing the heartwarming story behind the bag she carried to a private lunch at the Imperial Palace with Japanese Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko on Tuesday (Sep 27).

Mrs Lee posted on FaceBook on Sunday (Oct 2) morning explaining that the bag had been at a previous meeting with the Japanese royal couple - albeit in the hands of another woman, who died a couple of years ago.

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Ho Ching didn't dress as shabbily when she met Japanese emperor and his wife


Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and his wife Madam Ho Ching met Japanese Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko today (Sep 27), as part of his four-day official visit to Japan. They were hosted to a private lunch at the Imperial couple’s residence within the Imperial Palace grounds, and there’s relief that Ho Ching didn’t dress as shabbily as she had when she met other world leaders recently.

In early August, netizens were quick to point out the difference in dressing between Obama’s wife and Hsien Loong’s, when the Prime Minister and his wife were invited to a state dinner at the White House.



The netizen was referring to another recent official meeting which Madam Ho Ching attended with her husband, in Malaysia, to sign the High Speed Rail project agreement.

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PRIME MINISTER LEE HSIEN LOONG HOSTS LUNCHEON FOR MONGOLIAN PRIME MINISTER SUKHBAATAR BATBOLD AT ISTANA


Madam Ho Ching, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, Mongolian Prime Minister Sukhbaatar Batbold and Madam Khorloo Otgontuya posing for photographs at Istana

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La presidenta Park celebra reunión cumbre con el primer ministro de Singapur


La presidenta Park Geun-hye sostuvo conversaciones cumbre con el primer ministro de Singapur, Lee Hsien Loong, en Cheong Wa Dae el 11 de diciembre, para intercambiar puntos de vista sobre vías de cooperación en materia de comercio, construcción y economía creativa.

La presidenta Park elogió el liderazgo del primer ministro Lee Hsien Loong, afirmando que Singapur ha logrado sostener un alto nivel de crecimiento económico, a pesar de las dificultades que aún experimenta la economía mundial. La mandataria dijo que Corea y Singapur tienen mucho en común, dado que ambos países alcanzaron su desarrollo económico basándose en sus excelentes recursos humanos, y a pesar de que carecen de recursos naturales.

“A través de la creatividad y la innovación, confío en que Corea y Singapur lograrán fortalecer su cooperación orientada a futuro y emprender el sendero que los llevará a un nuevo despegue”, afirmó la presidenta. Esta explicitó lo anterior diciendo que ambos países están en condiciones de cooperar estrechamente, no sólo en el ámbito de los negocios, sino también en los de seguridad y política, incluida la seguridad en el noreste de Asia.

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Lee in Malaysia for leaders' retreat

Special guests: An honour guard greeting Lee and his wife Ho Ching who are accompanied by Hamzah (right) upon their arrival at KLIA. -Bernama

Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has arrived to attend the fifth Malaysia-Singapore Leaders’ Retreat. Lee and his delegation were welcomed by Deputy Foreign Minister Datuk Hamzah Zainuddin at the KL International Airport at 2.20pm yesterday.

He was accompanied by his wife Ho Ching, several Singaporean Cabinet ministers and senior officials for the two-day working visit. He is scheduled to meet Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak in the Prime Minister’s office today.

According to a Wisma Putra statement, the retreat was a platform for leaders of both countries to take stock of their bilateral co-operation. It also provides an avenue to explore and discuss further collaboration. Both Lee and Najib are expected to issue a joint statement at the end of the retreat.

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RI SING 50: Singapore, Indonesia together will rise as trusted and reliable partners


President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo (standing left) watches Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong (seated, second left) learn to produce a batik drawing while First Lady Iriana Widodo (wearing red dress) helps Lee’s wife, Ho Ching, draw on a piece of fabric after a bilateral meeting in Semarang, Central Java, recently.

Today, both Singapore and Indonesia are celebrating the Golden Jubilee of the establishment of their bilateral relations. President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo will join Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong to participate in the historic celebrations in Singapore.

In connection with the RISING (Republic of Indonesia and Singapore) 50 celebrations, The Jakarta Post is publishing an eight-page special supplement today. To find out more about RISING 50, the Post’s Supplement desk editor Veeramalla Anjaiah interviewed Singaporean Ambassador to Indonesia Anil Kumar Nayar recently.

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APEC CEO Summit Takes Place In Singapore


Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong (2nd R) and his wife Ho Ching welcome China's President Hu Jintao (2nd L) and his wife Liu Yongqing (L) at the evening reception for the APEC Leaders Summit in Sigapore. APEC 2009 brings together 800 business leaders and 15 world leaders to Singapore, with the two-day Summit addressing the economic crisis and key global issues.


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Power Women Ho Ching #30

Ho Ching CEO, Temasek

For half of 2015, Ho Ching, the CEO of Temasek Holdings, took a sabbatical from the Singapore state-owned investment firm before returning in the autumn. Ho, who has been on the Power Woman list every year since its inception in 2004, helped guide her firm to a $266 billion portfolio last year.

She has been with the company for 14 years, initially joining as the executive director, and was appointed to CEO in 2004. The firm has recently signaled its desire to look for opportunities in Europe.

With a master's degree in electrical engineering from Stanford University in hand, Ho started her career as an engineer with the Ministry of Defence of Singapore in 1976. She is married to Lee Hsien Loong, the nation's prime minister and son to the country's first PM, Lee Kuan Yew, who died in March 2015.

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The mystery of Ho Ching

If you run down the list of 100 women, you can be sure that the women (with very few exceptions like Ho Ching) are subject to intense public and media scrutiny

Ho Ching is conspicuously different. When was the last time you saw her deliver a speech at an event? Give a media interview? Subject herself to account for anything?

She does not even front the annual press conference to present the Temasek Holdings’ financial scorecard. This is so unlike other major organisations like SingTel and DBS Bank – you can be sure the CEO is front and centre of of it all when their financial performance is presented, fielding questions and giving media interviews. Temasek Holdings appears to adopt the unusual stance of putting the CEO at the backburner when it comes to media relations, transparency and accountability.


Ho Ching has been CEO of Temasek Holdings since 2004. For many years now, we have been hearing the usual refrain from Temasek Holdings about succession planning. This year, at its annual press conference, the same thing was regurgitated, this time by investment head Dilhan Pillay Sandrasegara: “As we have said over the years, the board has an annual succession review and that’s the discipline we put in place.” We call this PR-speak – rehearsed words that say something but really mean nothing.

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I asked Ho Ching to enter politics: Goh Chok Tong
Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and wife Ho Ching leave after an audience with Brunei’s Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah at Nurul Iman Palace in Bandar Seri Begawan October 5, 2017. (PHOTO: Reuters)

Emeritus Senior Minister (ESM) Goh Chok Tong has revealed that in the early 1980s, he approached Ho Ching to enter politics – but was told that the timing was wrong.

In the first volume of his newly-released memoirs entitled Tall Order: The Goh Chok Tong Story, Goh, who was Prime Minister of Singapore from 1990 to 2004, recalled that he had spotted Ho in the Ministry of Defence and thought that “she had the intellect and the attributes we were looking for”. “She would have made a good minister, a different kind of minister.”

Ho, who is now chief executive of Singapore sovereign wealth fund Temasek Holdings, was in her late 20s at the time. “She did not say no. She said not at this stage. She was still young.”

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Do you agree with ESM Goh that Ho Ching would have made a good minister?

A book about Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong is making waves lately with its many revelations about various prominent figures.

One such revelation was that Goh, in the early ’80s, had approached Ho Ching – while she was working in the Ministry of Defence, and before she married current Prime Minister Lee Hsien Long – to join politics. Ho Ching is currently CEO of Temasek Holdings.

Goh had thought “she had the intellect and the attributes we were looking for”, adding that “she would have made a good minister, a different kind of minister”. She did not say no, but rather, not at [that] stage.

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In approaching Ho Ching for politics, has Goh breached his duties as cabinet minister?

To me, the aspiration to hold political office should be a calling. As such, I never really understood or agreed with the ruling Peoples' Action Party's (PAP) practice of handpicking people who have not been involved in politics to join the party and run for office. If you want to get people who have hitherto not been involved in politics to join the political scene, you would have to entice them to join. They may have to leave their existing jobs and to get them to do that - wouldn't you have to sweeten the deal? This is perhaps why our current Members of Parliament (MPs) and ministers are paid so well. Arguably, some were not really interested in political office to begin with and only joined the fray because they were invited to and perhaps made attractive offers? Are these the right type of candidates?

I don't query the intellect of those who have been handpicked. That said, having a high intellect does not necessitate to being a good MP or minister. A good MP or minister needs to have more than intellect, he or she needs to have empathy, desire and passion to be involved in public service. My concern is that the system of handpicking people not involved in politics to join the party may attract candidates who are only in it for the money or prestige. This, in turn, means that the government has to constantly offer high remuneration as an incentive to otherwise uninterested people. Is this the best use of public money?

Former Prime Minister and current Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong (Goh), has in his newly-released memoirs entitled Tall Order: The Goh Chok Tong Story, confirmed that this practice of inviting suitable candidates to join the firm. He revealed that "in the early 1980s, he approached Ho Ching to enter politics – but was told that the timing was wrong." He further said that Ho Ching "had the intellect and the attributes we were looking for”. This begs the question - What attributes are they looking for? It sounds rather vague doesn't it? We are left to speculate what exactly those attributes are. Is it a safe pair of hands that will toe the party line part of the desired attributes? Is what is best for PAP always what is best for Singapore as a country?

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ESM Goh reveals Ho Ching didn’t say no when first approached to join politics

In the book, ESM Goh revealed that he did try to ask Ho Ching, presently the second wife of PM Lee, to join politics. But that was before she was married to PM Lee, after Lee's first wife Wong Ming Yang died shortly after giving birth to their first son, who was born with Albinism.

Goh said, "I did approach Ho Ching and ask her if she would be interested in politics. It was quite early on. She was about 28, 29 or 30, before she married Lee Hsien Loong." Goh said he spotted her in Mindef and thought that she had the necessary "intellect and attributes". "I knew she was a President's Scholar, but I didn't know her well - only superficially because she was in the science part of Mindef," he added.

"Through briefings and so on, I could see that she had a lot of substance. She would have made a good minister, a different kind of minister." Apparently, Ho Ching did not say no right away.

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If we vote for PM Lee, we are also voting for Ho Ching as a package deal?

I understand that political spouses have a certain role to play alongside their husbands or wives who are politicians. They are on hand to formally greet dignitaries and provide social support. This role however is ceremonial at best. It has no official capacity. After the initial greetings and pleasantries which are photographed, these spouses usually retreat when actual discussions commence.

It therefore comes as a surprise that wife of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong (PM Lee), Ho Ching was reported to have joined PM Lee, Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean, China's Vice President Wang Qishan together with other Singapore ministers and officials, as the group sat down to discuss various issues.

While Ho Ching, as head of Temasek Holdings, is a powerful woman in her own right, it still remains that she has no official governmental role. In that regard, her presence at governmental discussions may be misplaced. Instead of sitting down to join the group in their discussions, shouldn't she have left after the initial greetings?

related: Ho Ching attends meeting with China’s VP Wang Qishan


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The famiLEE feud: Rise of the 'First Lady'

On April 15, 2010, Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong was interviewed by Charlie Rose on American national television and declared without reservation that if anyone suggested that Singapore has a dynastic government – if there was any hint of nepotism – then he would sue them.

That was then. Seven years and two months later, on June 14, 2017, his own brother and sister (Lee Hsien Yang and Lee Wei Ling) accused him of exactly that. He has not sued them, but his brother has said he will flee the country in fear of unspecified repercussions from his conflict with his brother. They accuse him not only of having dynastic ambitions for his son, Li Hongyi, but also of abusing his power as prime minister in his effort to "advance his personal agenda" and of cowering the local press into timid silence.

The tipping point of the dispute is the last will and testament of the family patriarch, Lee Kuan Yew, who died on 23 March 2015. The specific point of dispute is disposal of the family home: Lee Kuan Yew wanted it bulldozed; Lee Hsien Loong wants it preserved and heritage listed. More to the point, he is accused of using the power of Cabinet and his Attorney-General (formerly his personal solicitor) to make it so. (Last week Cabinet Secretary Tan Kee Yong confirmed Cabinet had set up an internal ministerial committee to consider the options for the house but PM Lee had not been involved in the committee's discussions.) The PM's younger siblings have enlisted the power of Facebook and the foreign media (bypassing the Singapore press) to stop him.

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Ho Ching's refreshingly chill approach to social media
© Coconuts Media Photo: Ho Ching Facebook page

Unlike her husband — who holds the most powerful position in the country — the Prime Minister's wife Ho Ching has a rather refreshingly lax approach to her social media postings.

If one were to look at her personal (and verified) Facebook page,  it would seem that she loves to spam links to various videos, articles and memes without a care for public relations at all — an amazing feat considering that every single aspect of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's own social media presence is clearly curated. The same goes for the rest of the ministers and various politicians under him — they can (most times) be so inoffensive and sterile to the point of being bland.

That's why Ho Ching's own posts are so relatively interesting. Politically incorrect jokes even make it to her feed — like this one about Pornhub (sadly blocked in Singapore, mind you). Bless her gleeful, carefree heart.

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PM Lee the Latest “Victim” of Donald Trump Handshake

The Donald Trump handshake is certainly a thing in itself.

Some experts have called it a subtle display of dominance.

And it appears that our Prime Minister is the latest hapless “victim” of the Trump Shake.

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“Ho Ching is watching all of us” – Temasek CEO skirts question on the company’s plans for leadership succession
Instead of giving a direct answer as to what Temasek's leadership succession plans are, when he was asked to give details on these plans and on Mdm Ho's role at the company, Mr Pillay would only say that Mdm Ho is "very much now involved in the stewardship aspects of Temasek…she still keeps a watchful eye over all of us to make sure we continue to do the right thing"

Temasek International CEO Dilhan Pillay appeared to skirt questions on Ho Ching’s role at Temasek and the organisation’s plans for leadership succession, at a recent press briefing.

Temasek International is the investment arm of Singapore sovereign wealth fund, Temasek, which is led by Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s wife, Ho Ching. Instead of giving a direct answer as to what Temasek’s leadership succession plans are, when he was asked to give details on these plans and on Mdm Ho’s role at the company, Mr Pillay would only say that Mdm Ho is “very much now involved in the stewardship aspects of Temasek…she still keeps a watchful eye over all of us to make sure we continue to do the right thing.”

The South China Morning Post noted that Mr Pillay also quipped, “Right now, she’s watching all of us,” and that this remark was met with laughter.

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related:
Singaporean Artists poke fun at Ho Ching and Rosmah
Ho Ching remains Temasek CEO
Order of Succession And Baton Passing
The politics of power dressing
The famiLEE feud: Rise of the 'First Lady'
Ho Ching's refreshingly chill approach to social media
ESM Goh wants 4th-Gen PM to be picked this year
Next Prime Minister “likely” to be already in the cabinet
Fourth generation political leadership taking shape
Order of Succession And Baton Passing
Lee & Lee - The job has changed
PM Lee In The Limelight
PM Lee in Focus
Dangers Of 'Please-All Economics' Real: PM Lee
PM Lee Hsien Loong at G20 Leaders' Summit in Hamburg
The politics of power dressing: Ho Ching
PM Lee the Latest “Victim” of Donald Trump Handshake
PM Lee Hsien Loong at G20 Leaders' Summit in Hamburg