So similar these two economically successful and super efficient Asian cities – always trying to outdo each other. But Singapore and Hong Kong could not have been more different over the weekend.
Here, in the Padang, Singaporeans were celebrating their 54th National Day, complete with high-tech floats, mobile military column, rousing songs, colourful dances, aircraft flypast and a spectacular display of fireworks. In the grandstand were government and political dignitaries seated with their VIP guests – political leaders – of Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei. Smiles all tround.
Over in Hong Kong, in their latest round of civil disorder, more than 1,000 protesters were occupying the Hong Kong International Airport. According to the South China Morning Post, they were seated in organised blocks to allow a path for airport staff as they busied themselves drawing posters or greeting arriving travellers with chants of “add oil, Hong Kong!” and “fight for freedom, stay with Hong Kong”. Masked anger all round.
I have written on the protesters in Hong Kong and said what they have been doing – fighting legitimately for their rights and freedom against subtle encroachment – commanded the respect of many Singaporeans and indeed they were the envy of many Singaporeans who wished more Singaporeans could have the guts to do the same. This is the kind of spirit which will eventually spur Hong Kongers to the vanguard of genuine progress in what I believe will be an Asian Century. At best, Singaporeans can only be second-best followers in this Big Story because they will be stuck in their group thinking conformist mode.
Establishment figures in Singapore have not wasted time coming out with guns blazing at Hong Kongers for being “stupid”. These commentators have taken up a harsh truth line enunciated by Lee Kuan Yew which basically said Hong Kongers could argue about their way of life in their administrative zone but any posture which threatened the legitimacy of the mainland government would not be tolerated and would be suicidal.
That is the real stupid line. I don’t see how China can progress and relate with the rest of the world without Hong Kong. Hong Kong is irreplaceable. According to EDB Singapore, there were 1,389 companies with regional HQs in Hong Kong and only 470 in Shanghai. Westerners are comfortable with their rich expatriate living standards in the former British colony.
Some reports said Singaporeans are “gloating” at the chaos caused by Hong Kong protests? The SCMP said: “Some Hong Kongers say that based on what they see on social media, Singaporeans do not understand the situation, and why protesters are fighting for freedom and liberty”. Which “social” media have they been reading? As far as I know, the main credible social media support Hong Kongers in their coverage. I totally respect Hong Kongers for their guts in not allowing their freedom to be taken for granted and steamrolled over. Ignore the Singapore establishment tripod carriers.
For a more fruitful discussion about what is happening in Hong Kong, we may want to look beyond the obvious surface reports at other unseen hands behind the disorder. Nothing is as simple as it appears.
Beijing at first blames undefined dark hands. Then, the New York Times reported: “China’s ruling Communist Party identified a novel reason for the unrest: the secret machinations of an American woman working as a diplomat in the United States Consulate in Hong Kong.
The woman, Julie Eadeh, a political counsellor, has become a central figure in a growing Chinese narrative that Hong Kong’s protests are the work of traitors who are being directed by foreign, particularly American, “black hands” bent on fomenting an uprising in the former British colony.”
The US then accused the Chinese government of being behind the leak of a Hong Kong-based US diplomat’s personal information, after a pro-Beijing newspaper disclosed details of the official’s personal life. “I don’t think that leaking an American diplomat’s private information, pictures, names of their children, I don’t think that is a formal protest, that is what a thuggish regime would do,” US State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said at a news briefing in Washington.
We have not seen the end of this yet.
Suffice to say, the dark hands theory is not entirely fantasy, at least not in the way people would think – that the US is somehow behind the unrest. I had tea the other day with someone who had stayed in Hong Kong for more than decade. She gave me this perspective: Xi Jinping and the CCP have their own internal enemies, not at all related to Hong Kong. And they are behind the unrest. These elements, reformist or otherwise, may have own agenda.
Rock on, Ramli Sarip, ignore the idiotic remarks
I can understand that the much-maligned video of Subhas and Preeti Nair with its profanity can rile some people and because it was projected as an answer to a racist act, it sparked off a mini debate on racism in Singapore. But veteran rocker Ramli Sarip’s soulful take of Majulah Singapura at Friday’s (Aug 9 ) National Day Parade?
How did racism rear its ugly head? Because Sarip had long hair and did not look anything like your typical properly coiffeured MediaCorp artiste? Or his beautiful interpretation of the words was not anywhere near the school assembly version?
Who would find the Sarip rendition problematic? Perhaps warped Singaporeans who support the burning of the national flag since it is a facet of a regime they do not favour.
Whatever. Peace, Singaporeans.
Tan Bah Bah is a former senior leader writer with The Straits Times. He was also managing editor of a local magazine publishing company.