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Singapore’s James Bond

Two Jap soldiers kicked, punched and whipped Mr Tan HE was slapped, whipped, punched, kicked and clubbed for two hours by two stick-wielding Japanese soldiers.

But Mr Tan Chong Tee, then 27, refused to answer the soldiers’ questions on the whereabouts of some comrades that they were trying to capture.

"I know nothing," he kept saying stubbornly.

That was March 26, 1944, when Mr Tan was captured by the Japanese during a crackdown of underground espionage organisations in Ipoh.

Now, 53 years later, the sprightly 81-year-old retiree who lives in an apartment at Cavenagh Road still remembers clearly the physical pain and agony he went through.

"The Japanese hit me with their hands, their legs and wooden sticks," he recalled, speaking in Mandarin.

"They wanted to beat me up until I could no longer withstand the pain. But I was determined not to say anything. I knew that being captured by Japanese meant only death.

"It didn’t matter whether I told them anything or not."
Click to hear Mr Tan Chong Tee (in Mandarin)

And he would be tortured again...and again, during the 18 months that he was imprisoned.

"My back and chest were badly injured and I soon passed out," he said of the first time he was beaten.

"When I came to later, I found myself drenched in water. The soldiers went on torturing me and I fainted several times.

"But there was no way they could get me to talk. I was prepared to lay down my life for my comrades."

For food, he was given only three or four pieces of rotten sweet potato daily. Sometimes, he had to go hungry for days.

He and his comrades were locked up in separate cells which measured less than 0.37 square metres each.

There was only one barred window in his cell. The walls were stained with blood and filth.

The bed was made up of four pieces of plank nailed together, while the toilet was nothing more than a broken bucket.

He often heard screams coming from the torture chambers.

"Many a time, I saw young men and women being taken inside and the Japanese would torture them in every imaginable way. The prisoners were subjected to brutal acts like burning, electrocution and whipping.

"By the time the torture sessions had ended, they had to be carried or dragged out."

Mr Tan Chong Tee
Today, Mr Tan Chong Tee is a sprightly 81- year -old, who paints and writes books.
Mr Tan was not fearful of losing his own life. But after his leader, Mr Lim Bo Seng, was tortured to death, he vowed to stay alive so that he could tell others about Mr Lim’s heroism and seek justice for those comrades who had perished.

"It was this thought that kept me going…we lived in the hope that we would one day escape from this hellish place."

As Mr Tan was an important prisoner, the Japanese did not kill him.

After the Japanese surrendered, he was released on the condition that he changed his name and severed all ties with his past.

He must also never return to Malaya. The Japanese knew that they had to destroy evidence relating to the espionage case as they would soon be tried for their war crimes.

Mr Tan accepted the terms. While he was being escorted to a new life in Japan, he escaped when his train stopped at Ipoh.

After the war, Mr Tan became a businessman and raised a family. But till this very day, his wartime experiences are still vividly imprinted in his mind.

Next: Find out how Mr Tan had to sacrifice his loved ones.

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