Tan Kim Bee was of Peranakan Malaysian descent. He graduated as a mining engineer from Dunedin University under a federal scholarship in 1956. After graduation, Tan joined the Mines Department of Malaysia and retired as its Director General in 1984. His first international competition was the 1950 British Empire Games where he won a bronze medal as a light-heavyweight. Tan won another bronze at the 1958 Asian Games, adding a silver medal as a middle-heavyweight at the 1958 British Empire and Commonwealth Games. In addition to his 1956 Olympic appearance, where he was the Malayan flagbearer at the Opening Ceremony, Tan qualified for the 1960 Olympics, but his wife was expecting their first child, so he deferred and then retired from competition.