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News from Singapore: The $3-million Hieress (III)
Extracted from Straits Times:
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The tycoon who cut his 15 kids from his will
IN EARLIER DAYS: Wong Yoon Fee was awarded public
service medals from the colonial government.
THE wealthy patriarch of the Wong clan had humble
beginings in China:
1865: Wong Yoon Fee, a Hakka, is born into a family of
farmers in Meixian County, Guangzhou, China.
1878: Wong, 13, sets sail for Singapore to seek his
1890s: He gets a leg-up in the hotel business here and
sets up Xin Chang Long hotel in Amoy Street.
1900s: He branches into shipping, rubber plantations
and pineapple-canning and is well-regarded as a pillar
of the Chinese community with his many good works. His
four wives bear him 10 sons and four daughters. His
11th son, Wong Siong Yong, is adopted.
1905: He sets up the Yinxin School in Singapore's
Chinatown for poor children.
APRIL 1926: Wong dies in Meixian County, China,
leaving behind four wives, miscellaneous properties,
two plots of land in Johor and a will stating that the
two plots may be sold only 21 years after the last of
his wives dies, and that only his grandsons and
great-grandsons may lay claim to the proceeds from the
sale. The plots are placed in the hands of the
trustees of his estate.
1954: Loh Kwang Nyong, Wong's last surviving wife also
his first dies at age 81.
1994: Wong's trustees sell the Johor land, making $37
million for the estate. After setting aside $7 million
for legal fees, there is $30 million to distribute.
His only surviving son, Mr Wong Kim Yong, is in
Sydney, Australia, while his only surviving daughter,
Madam Wong Yee Lin (also known as Madam Wong Lian
Thye), lives with her two unmarried children in an HDB
flat in Ghim Moh. Now 91, she got nothing.
1995-96: Various branches of the Wong family tree step
forward to claim their share of their inheritance in
the High Court here. (There are, to date, 22 proven
claimants to his estate.)
1997: Four brothers from China three farmers and a
railway technician lay claim to $540,000 each as
Wong's grandsons. They succeed, becoming instant
millionaires in their homeland.
1998: Mr Huang Jieming, a transportation worker from
Guangdong, China, claims to be the son of Wong's late
fifth grandson. The four brothers contest his claim
hotly, but the court rules in his favour and he, too,
AUGUST 1999: Dr Huang Luexian, who claims to be the
adopted grandson of Wong's late son's second wife,
puts in a claim for $2.73 million. He succeeds, but
will not get a cent unless he can first prove to the
court his links to his late adoptive ""father''.
MARCH 2000: Madam Huang Zhu Mei proves her claim to
$800,000 of her original $3-million claim as the only
surviving next-of-kin of Wong's grandson Wong Khoy
But she tells the court her late father may have kept
a mistress in Johor. The court orders an immediate
pay-out of $800,000 to her but withholds the
remainder, until no one else steps forth to contest
JUNE 2000: The trustees' lawyers post advertisements
in Malaysian dailies to give possible claimants a
chance to come forward.
LATE OCTOBER 2000: Closed-door hearings of the
response to the ads will be held.
NOT A CENT INTENDED FOR WOMEN
MADAM HUANG ZHU MEI'S dibs on the fortune almost never
came to pass because her grandfather never meant for
the women in his family to inherit a single cent.
Wong Yoon Fee's will was clear that neither his sons
nor any direct female descendant in his bloodline
could see a cent from his estate.
In fact, his only surviving, and embittered, daughter,
Madam Wong Yee Lin, 91, has only a wooden cabinet in
her Ghim Moh flat to remember her father by.
When Wong Yoon Fee's two plots of land were sold in
1994, men bearing the surnames Wong, Huang and Hwang
from Toa Payoh to Australia staked a claim on the
One male offspring was absent from this melee Madam
Huang's elder bachelor brother, the late Wong Khoy
Fatt (or Huang Kaifa). He died in 1993, aged 77, after
a long illness in Shuiche village.
As Madam Huang was her late brother's only surviving
next-of-kin and he had left behind an
improperly-executed will, his share of his
grandfather's estate devolved directly to her under
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