The Hong Kong protests have had a ripple effect across the globe, even in Singapore, sparking conversations and debate over the issues being protested in Hong Kong and shining a light on certain matters at home as well.
In Hong Kong, people are protesting the controversial Extradition Bill that the city’s Executive Council is trying to push through the legislative branch. This law, should it pass, would drastically alter Hong Kong’s current extradition laws and would allow China to extradite fugitives in Hong Kong over to the mainland. This, many experts and critics of the Bill say, is a deadly threat to Hong Kong’s autonomy from China under the One Country, Two Systems policy.
Taiwan-based Singaporean activist and blogger Roy Ngerng took to Facebook to share his thoughts on the effects that the Hong Kong protests is having on people living in Singapore.
A divided Singapore
Noting that while the protests have united Hong Kongers, the same event has split the Singaporean public into two camps: those concerned about similar protests in Singapore and those hoping for the same.
Mr Ngerng wrote, “The strength in Hong Kong’s protests have caused concern among those in Singapore who have benefited from the system in Singapore, to be concerned that they will lose what they have if those who have not benefited were to do a similar protest. What you are hearing from this group is, Singapore is such a good place, Singapore is so stable, we must not have the same riot in Singapore.”
Conversely, he pointed out that the other group is made of up “people who have been forgotten by the system in Singapore, the people who feel left behind, or who have been hurt by it.” These people, he says, support the protesters in Hong Kong who are fighting for their rights and for their autonomy.
A victory for the Hong Kong people “is a victory for us living in authoritarian regimes who feel powerless, to have a sense of hope, that the same is possible.”
He elaborated that those who have benefited from the system want to protect it. They want to protect the wealth and prestige that the system has afforded them. Specifically, Mr Ngerng says that “they fear that when Singapore becomes a more equal place, they can no longer hoard their wealth and power.”
Acknowledging that his outline of the scenario is ‘simplistic’, he says that the protests in Hong Kong have brought about “verbal output of fear from one side, and a silent hope on the other side”, a development that he thinks is necessary.
However, he laments that he doesn’t think people will “learn enough” to actually transform Singapore into a “more equal place”. He says, “You are talking about a group of people who have benefited from the system for the past few decades, and suddenly you want them to give it all up?”
Candidly, Mr Ngerng adds that “change will never come under the PAP because they have already taken too much that it’s too painful for them to give it up.”
Pointing to the Hong Kong protests, Mr Ngerng says it is a sign to the ruling party in Singapore that “their power is not limitless” and that there will come a day when they will lose. This, he says, is why many Singaporeans are inspired by Hong Kong and it’s over 2 million protesters.
“That they can march…and their government will be scared.”
Democracy for all
Referring to his own activism, Mr Ngerng – who was a prominent opposition politician in Singapore before moving to Taiwan in 2016 – says he is fighting for a more equal society where the poor will be poor no more, where the elderly can retire comfortably with respect and dignity, and where the ill are able to seek treatment without having to worry about finance.
“And I believe in democracy. I know that when people have the freedom to speak, the freedom to think, they will learn to come together and discuss ideas, solutions, and such exchanges will enrich the solutions we can develop, and make Singapore a better place. And I believe in this freedom for everyone,” he says, adding that Singapore would not have become so divided if there was “real” democracy and freedom.
He then slammed those who think that Hong Kong should not fight, those who believe that the people of the city should let China take over. He asks, “How is it fair that we want democracy for ourselves, that we want a voice for ourselves, but we do not want democracy for others? How can it be fair when we know what it is like to be under an authoritarian regime which robs us of our power, but we would gladly allow another authoritarian regime to rob others of theirs?”
Mr Ngerng argues that if we know that democracy and freedom are the foundations upon which societies are built, then we should wish for those values not only for people in Hong Kong but for people in mainland China as well, who are generally afforded fewer freedoms.
Bringing it back to Singapore, Mr Ngerng urges citizens on the island to know their strength. “You fight to reclaim your home, to reclaim your right to be who you are, to be free, to be able to think, to be able to dream, and to fight for one another, and to make your home a better place.”