After sharing his thoughts on the protests in Hong Kong and noting how Singaporean’s should not only support the people there but also be inspired by them, Roy Ngerng was described by Mothership.sg as a ‘foreign influence’.
Specifically, in an article detailing Mr Ngerng’s original post the website used the phrase: “This is some next level foreign-influence-ception” when talking about his participation in a rally in Taiwan where people gathers to show solidarity to the folks in Hong Kong.
Responding to Mothership’s labelling, Mr Ngerng slammed the website for their choice of words, especially given that it had just a few days ago published an article commenting on the Hong Kong protests in encouragement.
The Mothership article about the protest written by Hong Konger Emily Lo noted that the youths in Hong Kong are more engaged in politics and that those protesting are trying to create a better space. Essentially, the article was quite positive about the protests in the sense of encouraging youth involvement in politics.
On this article, Mr Ngerng declared his support for Mothership, saying: “I am glad this article has been published, Singaporeans need to read about it, and to empathize with the Hong Kongers.”
However, few days later the same website published an article labelling Mr Ngerng’s attendance at the solidarity rally in Taiwan as ‘foreign influence’, implying that his activism in support of Hong Kong was akin to interfering in the politics of a foreign nation – Mr Ngerng being a Singaporean who is based in Taiwan while vocalising his support for the protests in Hong Kong.
In his call-out post to Mothership.sg over their article about him, Mr Ngerng asked, “How exactly does it work in the editorial team in Mothership where my support for the Hong Kong protests can be shaped to be “foreign-influence-ception”, but the publication by they themselves which supports the Hong Kong’s protests is not construed as “foreign-influence-ception”?”
“How does Mothership even try to get around this cognitive dissonance, I would like to know,” he added.
Mr Ngerng posited that Mothership might claim that it was their editorial right to publish two seemingly contradictory articles. That being the case, then couldn’t Mothership’s commentary be labelled as ‘foreign influence’ as well, asked the activist.
He said, “So, this is it – if you want to label me as being part of “foreign-influence-ception”, then try being consistent with yourself.”
Directed by the PAP?
Going further, Mr Ngerng pointed out the Singaporean website’s generally negative position towards him, crediting that stance to the fact that Mothership is funded by the people connected to the PAP.
He adds, “And of course, PAP-affiliated media such as Mothership would position my criticisms of the PAP as negative, and to smear me, because this is the stance PAP has adopted.” On whether Mothership was specifically directed by the ruling party to label Mr Ngerng as they did, he says “only Mothership would know or be willing to admit”.
Mr Ngerng then highlighted Mothership’s Deputy Managing Director and Managing Editor Martino Tan who was assigned as his ‘buddy during BMT’ during national service, elaborating how close they worked together back in the day.
“He used to be a nice person, and still appears nice 4 years ago when I met him at a forum on the CPF,” says Mr Ngerng.
“But people change, I suppose. He went on the officer track, eventually worked in the prime minister’s office as its senior manager in online communications, and now he leads Mothership, and has written articles about me.”
Mr Ngerng articulated his bafflement at how someone who know him so well could possibly “write articles that tore me apart, in spite of knowing who I am as a person.”
The 38-year old then wrote about how labels like the one used by Mothership is a creation of the PAP to use against its critics, adding that the propaganda of foreign influence is “aimed at alienating the activist, so as to prevent others to support the critic in question.”
“It’s an encircling strategy to isolate people,” he warns.
Mr Ngerng points out that PAP is not totally innocent on this note as they themselves engage foreigners to comment on local politics while also commenting on politics in other parts of the world.
Highlighting Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s recent controversial remarks on the Vietnam-Cambodia conflict in the 70s and 80s, M Ngerng says “if the PAP is the larger organizer of what is likes to call “foreign interference”, it’s honestly very hard to take them seriously.”
Mothership can do better
Bring it back to Mothership, Mr Ngerng accused them of being “complicit in the oppression of Singaporeans and their rights to protest”.
He asks, “Why pretend to be liberal while at the same time criticizing Singaporeans who are try to fight for liberal reforms in Singapore?”
Mr Ngerng, in his post, reiterated his belief that the people of Singapore need to support those in Hong Kong and that “the freedoms and democracy we fight for in Singapore should be consistent with our support for Hong Kong.”
He also noted his gratitude that the protests has sparked important conversations in Singapore about freedom and democracy.
Using his case as an example, he says: “When we are silent or when we use the same language of the oppressors in Singapore to label others, this makes us complicit to the oppression.”
“If we do not want to be oppressed, then we have to learn to stop using the same language as the PAP to oppress others. We have to stop using terms like, “foreign interference”, or their propaganda, because in doing so, we are also crippling our own rights.”