On Friday (5 July), former editor of The Straits Times (ST) Leslie Fong wrote an opinion piece regarding the 1 July protest in Hong Kong that saw a group of protesters stormed into LegCo and destroyed the Hong Kong emblem, ruined portraits of political leaders and destroyed furniture.
In his article, Mr Fong called these protesters “rioters” and stated that Singaporeans watched television footage of them “ransacking and vandalising” LegCo in “sadness and bewilderment”.
He also supported Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam and the police, and justified their move to retreat as their “key considerations must be the avoidance of massive bloodshed or, worse, death”.
If that is not all, Mr Fong also stressed that the reason why Hong Kongers are taking the matter to the streets right now is because of the high property prices in Hong Kong as people are not able to own a house.
“This deplorable state was brought about by avaricious property tycoons and their business associates who have made it ruinously expensive for most wage earners to rent, never mind buy, a decent roof over their head,” he explained.
He added, “Tackling this decisively – giving the majority of Hong Kong people a chance to own a home without having to take on the burden of loans that will take two generations to pay off – will be more meaningful and effective in lifting the sense of desperation that many of the young feel than any talk of political reform and more responsive governance.”
Since 9 June, millions of Hong Kongers took to the streets to protest against the controversial Extradition Bill that would allow residents to be extradited to mainland China. Although the government has postponed the bill for now, people are still demanding that it be permanently shelved and that Ms Lam resign.
Lynn Lee’s response
In response to Mr Fong’s article, Lynn Lee, a film producer at Lianain Films, took to her Facebook on Friday (5 July) to slam the former editor for his thoughts regarding the protests in Hong Kong.
The Singaporean journalist who was on the ground documenting the protests, wrote, “Not a single protester I’ve spoken to says they’re out on the streets because of property prices.”
The reason why Hong Kongers are protesting is because they’re “appalled at the steady erosion of the one-country-two-systems framework”, as they don’t wish to lose their freedom, Ms Lee noted. She also mentioned that the people of Hong Kong don’t trust the Chinese Communist Party and “owe it to themselves to say something now even if they’re sure China and the HK government won’t listen”.
Ms Lee also pointed out that its “pure stupidity” to say that the riot took place because foreigners have instigated the locals to protest.
“How much money, Mr Fong, can I pay you to stand on Harcourt Road. In the sun, in the rain, in the humidity, in front of lines of riot-police, amid clouds of teargas?” she asked.
The film producer also said that Mr Fong wrote the article because he sees it as a “teaching moment for a domestic audience” and not so much of analysing the real situation in Hong Kong.
“He’s betting on the likelihood that Singaporeans lack the imagination to understand why anyone would risk so much to stand up for freedom such as democracy and free speech. And so in Fong’s world – in the world he believes Singaporeans inhabit – those who do are “rioters” who must surely be someone else’s puppets,” she noted.
She also added Singapore government is insecure since a lot of freedom is given to the mainstream media to run stories “devoted to faux-analyses like Fong’s”.
“A people who can organise – as the young protesters in HK have organised – is a frightening thing for authoritarian regimes. Some people, somewhere, are getting their knickers in a bunch, not because they care about Hong Kongers, but because they’re afraid of what we might learn from their struggle,” she opined.