Singapore — Much has already been written about the leaked audio recording of Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing’s speech at a recent closed-door meeting with the Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SCCCI), with camps divided between lauding him for his honesty and authenticity, decrying his use of Singlish, and calling him out for the disparaging way he referred to both Hongkongers and Singaporeans.
He himself admitted in a Facebook post that he provided “a frank assessment to the business leaders” and that he does not “mince my words when presenting hard truths and trade-offs.”
Considering the long-standing rivalry between Hong Kong and Singapore, Mr Chan’s unfiltered and undiplomatic attitude toward Hongkongers has ruffled a few feathers, including Alice Wu’s, a writer for South China Morning Post (SCMP), who wrote on Monday (Feb 24) an opinion piece entitled “Don’t be so quick to mock Hong Kong’s misfortunes, Singapore. Your time could come, too.”
She wrote, “Let’s also hope Chan will notice that Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor’s pride came before her fall.”
For Ms Wu, a political consultant and a former associate director of the Asia Pacific Media Network at UCLA, the main point is that the breakdown of trust that has beset Hong Kong can happen anywhere, including Singapore, and therefore, Singapore had better not get too high and mighty.
Now Ms Wu did concede in her article that the Mr Chan had a point in saying the Singaporean Government took a “gamble” in distributing face masks—a move that won widespread praise in the region despite the fact that only four masks were distributed per household—an initiative that was launched for its psychological benefit, among others. Ms Wu writes, “Evidently, masks do not just offer protection against Covid-19 to ordinary people, they also protect a government against widespread public resentment.”
And she adds that Mr Chan was equally as unsparing to his own countrymen, also calling them “idiots,” singling out those who had gone panic-buying.
However, she does call the Trade and Industry Minister out on his uncharitable attitude, especially at a time when Hong Kong is obviously suffering.
“I do understand the anger because Chan’s comments were mean. Kicking a man when he’s down is not exactly honourable behaviour. It’s shameful, actually, coming from a leader and it reflects badly on him, as well as the country he represents. It ignores the fact that Hong Kong appears to be down and out.
Hong Kong is suffering a total breakdown in trust at all levels. Our social fabric has been ripped to shreds. People have not recovered after months of witnessing violent physical assaults day in and day out; openly taking political sides is having devastating consequences; best friends and closest family members have severed ties; the glut of fake news has put people on edge. In this toxic climate, public panic about a disease without a cure (yet) is only to be expected.”
Moreover, she asks the pertinent question as to why some Singaporeans resorted to panic-buying and hoarding, even if Singapore is not racked by any sort of social or political crisis at the moment.
Ms Wu compared his speech to a recent one from Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, who at least showed sympathy for Hongkongers, as well as asked some hard questions. “Can this deep social angst happen here? Can this social division befall us? And my answer is, yes it can if we are not careful. If it happens to us, like what’s happening elsewhere, we will suffer the same consequences as the other countries, only worse because we are that much more vulnerable.” —/TISG