Kok is a member of the Hakka dialect group and her ancestors were from Huizhou, Guangdong Province, China. She speaks , and fluently. Kok is a devoted Catholic.
She earned her first degree from Universiti Sains Malaysia , graduating in the School of Communication, and; a second degree from University Malaya in political science, and a master of philosophy. Her thesis was on UMNO, titled "Factionalism in Umno During Dr Mahathir's Era ".
Kok was political secretary to Parliamentary Opposition Leader Lim Kit Siang from 1990 to 1995.
In 1995, she contested the Ipoh Barat Parliamentary seat on a DAP ticket but was defeated by the MCA candidate. Kok resigned as political secretary after that to further her studies.
In the 1999 General Elections, Kok won the Parliamentary seat of Seputeh in Kuala Lumpur with a majority of 5,200 and was re-elected in 2004 with a majority of 12,895, the largest winning margin among the 13 elected DAP MPs. In the , Kok retained her Parliamentary seat of Seputeh in Kuala Lumpur with a majority of 36,492, the largest majority in any constituency. In the new Selangor executive council, she was named senior executive councillor and put in charge of investment, trade and industry to ensure all fund are directed to all the Malaysians.
Teresa was reelected into Central Executive Committee of DAP during the party's National Congress in Kuala Lumpur. She is currently the DAP National Organising Secretary, prior to this position she was DAP Publicity Secretary. She is also the National Secretary of DAP Wanita and a member of the DAP Disciplinary Committee. In Parliament, she was a member of the on Review of Penal Code and Criminal Procedure Code.
Kok is the Secretary of the ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Myanmar Caucus . She was an active lobbyist for Burmese democracy and human rights since 1996 when she was the Coordinator of Political Leaders Network Promoting Democracy in Burma in Southeast Asian region.
Detention under ISA
Teresa Kok was arrested near OUG Heights at on Friday September 12 2008 under Section 73 of the . Under the act, the police have no obligation to disclose the alleged offense if any at all.
Teresa Kok's arrest followed the arrests of prominent blogger activist Raja Petra Kamaruddin and journalist Tan Hoon Cheng from the Sin Chew Daily News earlier on that day.
Prior to her arrest, the Malay daily Utusan Malaysia and its columnist for an article had claimed that Teresa Kok had "advised" a mosque in Puchong not to use loudspeakers while making the azan or the Islamic calls to prayer. Teresa Kok had issued a denial against the allegation. The Selangor state government was giving all parties involved in making the claim a week to issue a retraction and apology.
It was found out later that a faulty loudspeaker system was the reason why the mosque did not broadcast the azan. Furthermore, while there was a petition sent to the mosque, the petition requested for the mosque to lower the volume during 'ceramah' or sermons and not during azan. The administrator of the mosque as well as the petitioners also confirmed that Kok was not involved in the petition.
Member of Parliament for Kota Raja, Dr Siti Mariah Mahmood of lodged a police report against a blog website called Pembela Melayu, Selangor Opposition Leader Mohd Khir Toyo for defaming Kok by alleging that Kok had supported a petition by the Chinese in Kinrara against the azan in their area. The website also alleged that Seri Serdang assemblyman Satim Diman had raised the issue at the state assembly but did not get a response.
She was released on 19 September 2008 at 1.30pm after from a seven-day detention under the Internal Security Act . She has claimed that she was made scapegoat in the move to contain the outrage over the alleged racist remarks. "I see my detention as a ploy by Umno to try to cover up the embarassment and the outrage over the racist statements made by Ahmad Ismail in Penang," she told a press conference shortly after her release at the DAP headquarters. "I wonder why they chose an innocent person like me as I have never made any racist remarks or racist speeches in the past," she said, adding that she has instructed her lawyer to sue the government for her unlawful arrest and detention. She also urged police to investigate her report lodged against Utusan Malaysia, columnist Zaini Hassan and former Selangor Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Dr Mohd Khir Toyo under the Penal Code.
Immediately after her release, she was embroiled in a controversy in which she claimed the quality of food served to her during her incarceration was so bad that it was similar to dog food. Utusan Malaysia reported her statement. Kok claimed Utusan was manipulating her words, denied making that statement and instead insisted that she had said that the food was only slightly better than dog food. She later admitted to making contradictory statements.
Her complaint caused the government to investigate the quality of food served to detainees in Malaysian police lock-ups.
On September 27th 2008, two Molotov cocktails were thrown into the family home of Seputeh MP Teresa Kok in Taman Rainbow, Jalan Ipoh. A warning letter containing threatening words and vulgarities was also attached to a bottle left outside the house. At the time, Teresa’s parents and her siblings were in the house, none was hurt in the incident.
Lawsuit Against Utusan
Teresa Kok has filed a RM30mil suit against Utusan Melayu Sdn Bhd and the paper’s columnist Zaini Hassan over an article that allegedly defamed her. She claims the article portrayed her as a racist, a religious bigot, an untrustworthy person and a chauvinistic politician who was against Islam.
Hill slope development allegation
's journalist and columnist R. Nadeswaran and Terence Fernandez alleged that Teresa Kok and Ronnie Liu were organizing a meeting between Real Estate and Housing Developers Association and the Selangor Chief Minister Khalid Ibrahim to lobby a repeal of a moratorium on hill slope development in Selangor. Kok denied the allegation and stated that it was only a meeting.
In 2004, Kok published a book compiling articles she wrote for the then Chinese daily Sin Chew Jit Poh. She continues to write a weekly column for the Chinese daily Sin Chew.
* Kok, Teresa . . Retrieved Nov. 5, 2005.
* Kok, Teresa . . Retrieved Oct. 29, 2005.