Singapore—Since protests have escalated in Hong Kong starting June this year, observers have been curious how the increasingly volatile situation would affect Singapore.
They cited the proximity and similarities between the two cities.
Speculation has arisen whether similar protests might erupt in Singapore, should discontent over governance boil in the same way that Hong Kong’s citizens have fought back.
In Hong Kong, protestors first groaned against a contentious extradition bill, and later against this evolved into a protest against police brutality and for greater democracy.
An article for the Los Angeles Times entitled “Singapore is keeping a wary eye on the unrest in Hong Kong,” compares the two cities’ methods of protests.
Whereas in Hong Kong the demonstrations have escalated to the point of occupying the International Airport and getting all flights in and out of the city cancelled on Monday, August 12, in Singapore, writer David Pierson says, “Protests are restricted to a park the size of a softball field benignly called Speakers’ Corner.
On most days, the park’s most vocal contingent are the chirping birds perched in the pink poui trees that ring the space alongside police cameras.
On the rare days people demonstrate, it’s only after their topics have been scrutinized and granted government approval.”
Mr Pierson goes on saying Singaporeans have cast an apprehensive eye on the growing protests since this “Unrest of that magnitude is unthinkable in this city-state of meticulous laws run by the world’s most enduring ruling political party outside China and North Korea.”
Whereas from the beginning of the protests some people had already written that Hong Kong’s economic losses would be Singapore’s gain, presuming wary investors would transfer funds from one city to the more stable one.
The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) has discouraged this kind of talk and instead encouraged financiers not to lure clients from Hong Kong.
Singapore’s Law and Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam spoke of the need for stability in the region recently.
“There is some superficial talk, ‘Oh you know, Singapore benefits,.’ I don’t believe that. We benefit from stability across the region, including Hong Kong. If China does well, Hong Kong does well, the region does well, we do well. There’s no profit in seeing instability. And if Hong Kong is at odds with China, it’s a problem for everyone, including us.”
The author also pointed out that Singapore needs to walk a careful balancing act between the United States and China, needing to stay in the good graces of both superpowers for the sake of the country’s economy.
Mr Pierson also quotes Singapore’s former onetime Minister of Foreign Affairs and longtime diplomat Bilahari Kausikan, as saying, “Singapore and Hong Kong are often regarded as rivals. There is undoubtedly an element of competition in the relationship. We may gain some short-term advantage from Hong Kong’s troubles.
Thoughtful Singaporeans nevertheless understand that the long-term interest of Singapore and the entire region is in a stable and prosperous Hong Kong.
“We watch what is unfolding in Hong Kong with sympathy. But it is the sympathy that one feels for a friend or relative so desperate as to contemplate suicide. This is not something most Singaporeans would care to emulate. Unlike Hong Kong, Singapore is independent and sovereign. Our destiny is in our own hands. We can only hope that Hong Kong stabilizes itself without Beijing having to directly intervene.”