Many have called Mr Wang Pei Fei a foreign “talent” who insulted Singapore. While it’s true that Wang’s ‘foreign’, it’s not true that he is a ‘talent’ (in the sense we understand it).
Wang was an overseas student. He was not a scholar who had been offered any favours by the Singapore government. He was a paying student attending a private school. We were actually making money from him.
While I deeply abhor his comments, I cannot help but question if he is a scapegoat for a deeper issue.
Some have commented that had Wang been a Singaporean, he would have been questioned and/or detained by the authorities and implied that he was permitted to flee because he was a Chinese national.
Singapore is a multiracial country and of course no form of racism, especially on a public platform should be tolerated. But that being said, I doubt the assertion that Singaporeans would have received greater censure than Wang.
There are many remarks made along racial lines in Singapore everyday. Phrases such as “ah nei”, “turbanator”,”prata man” are but some of the derogatory racist terms hurled at the minority races in Singapore. Most notably, comments of this nature were used liberally to criticise Vikram Nair and President Nathan.
I have yet to see any Singaporean prosecuted for that. Nor have these comments attracted the furore that this video clip generated.
I am not defending Wang. All I am saying is that his comments are no worse than many racist and ignorant statements that have been uttered by Singaporeans against Singaporeans!
Perhaps, the majority are oblivious to these offensive taunts because it was not directed at them. Wang’s tirade on the other hand was; for not only did he make jibes at the Malay and Indian community, he also took pot shots at Chinese Singaporeans by making fun of their command of Mandarin. His comments on Singaporeans’ command of English likewise affected all Singaporeans, including the Chinese community.
If we demand for action to be taken against Wang, then action must also be taken against all Singaporeans who have made and who make hateful remarks along racial lines in a public forum. Punishment must also be equal for all perpetrators regardless of nationality. There cannot be one set of rules for Singaporeans and another set for foreigners who are legitimately in our country.
While there are arguments against foreigners taking up jobs meant for Singaporeans, Wang is not such a foreigner at the time the video was made. He was a fee paying student attending a private school. There is no evidence to suggest that he was working in Singapore at the time the video was made.
In our justified anger at insulting comments made about our country, we should not confuse the issues. Foreign talents taking up jobs meant for Singaporeans is a separate issue from fee paying students studying in Singapore.
Wang’s video was indeed offensive but it was no more offensive than comments that have been made by Singaporeans to other Singaporeans along racial lines. Before Singaporeans condemn Wang, we should also reflect on our own prejudices against other races within Singapore. If it is not acceptable for Wang to make such comments, it is even more unacceptable for Singaporeans to make comments of such nature against other Singaporeans. The knife should cut both ways.
Perhaps the massive reaction that Wang’s video garnered is the manifestation of the frustration of Singaporeans against the large influx of foreigners. In our frustration however, we should not confuse the issue of Wang with the issue of foreign talents. While Wang’s video is deplorable and does deserve censure, the colossal backlash it has generated is perhaps an overreaction.
His student visa has been cancelled, he has lost $10,000 and fled the country. Let’s not make this a Singaporeans versus foreigners issue.