Photo: Anna Carson DeWitt
Mei Fong is an author and journalist who owes the start of her writing career to the Queen of England.
As a 16-year-old, the Malaysian-born Fong won an essay competition that garnered her an invitation to meet Queen Elizabeth II, in town for a Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting. Emboldened by the meeting—“nothing so exciting had ever happened in my dull life until then,”— Fong resolved to become a journalist and writer.
After graduating from the National University of Singapore she started her journalism career as a reporter at The New Paper, writing stories on local crime, forest fires in Indonesia and gang warfare in Macau.
In 1999 she moved to New York for graduate studies at Columbia University with a scholarship from Singapore’s Lee Foundation, graduating with a Masters in International Affairs.
While a summer intern at Forbes, she created its Top-Earning Dead Celebrities list (“Sales from the Crypt”) which is still published every year by the business magazine.
She joined the Wall Street Journal in 2001, covering the aftermath and recovery of New York city after the 9-11 attacks. Later, she covered Hong Kong and China, where she won a shared Pulitzer for her stories on China’s transformative process ahead of the 2008 Beijing Olympics. She is believed to be the first Malaysian to win a Pulitzer.
Her stories on China’s migrant workers also won a 2006 Human Rights Press Award from Amnesty International and the Hong Kong Correspondents Club, as well as awards from the Society of Publishers in Asia and Society of Professional Journalist.
After leaving the China bureau, she was on faculty at the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School of Communications. She is currently a fellow at thinktank New America.
She is married to journalism professor Andrew Lih. They have two sons and live in greater Washington DC.