Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam “worried” for Hong Kong over ongoing protests, criticises international media for “muddied” narrative of events

The ongoing protests against Hong Kong’s extradition Bill are worrying, and that contrary to the suggestion that the chaos in Hong Kong will benefit Singapore as one of its primary economic competitors, Singapore may be adversely affected should the protests continue, said Singapore’s Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam in an interview last Wed (7 Aug).

On Sun (11 Aug), South China Morning Post reported Mr Shanmugam as saying that “solutions” to Hong Kong’s socioeconomic problems “cannot be found if serious disruptions like these continue”.

“Every Government has to deliver on these things,” he said, in reference to the “material aspirations” of Hong Kong’s youth such as those concerning housing and other related areas.

“If you actually look at it, the Government in Beijing, it delivers on these issues. And I’m sure the Hong Kong Government is aware of these aspirations, and the issues, and will look for solutions.

“People’s aspirations need to be met. Solutions need to be found. But, I will add, the solutions cannot be found if serious disruptions like these continue,” said Mr Shanmugam, adding that in doing so, “HK needs a supportive China, and the solutions need to work for both HK and China”.

He added that some of the protesters apparently also have “an ideological perspective”, in that “they would like to see a different structure of government”, and that such ideological issues could be “more difficult to deal with” compared to socioeconomic problems.

“My own view, I don’t want to speak for the Government – my own view, when we see this, we are worried for Hong Kong. Because there’s no easy way forward when people are in such entrenched positions,” said Mr Shanmugam.

Mr Shanmugam also told Reuters that Singapore will also reap the benefits of stability across the Asian region, and that the “short-term benefits through instability in Hong Kong are outweighed by longer-term disamenities and longer-term structural problems” as a result of said instability.

“From a strategic perspective, I’d rather see that Hong Kong reverts to how we all know Hong Kong to be,” he said.

Beijing’s alleged erosion of its “one country, two systems” framework for Hong Kong “wishful thinking replacing reality”: K Shanmugam

He also criticised the anti-China stance taken by some of the protesters in Hong Kong, and opined that some of the protesters’ apprehension regarding Beijing’s increased encroachment into the Hong Kong governance will erode the city’s free and democratic way of life is “wishful thinking replacing reality”.

“In Hong Kong, defiance has been demonstrated towards PRC state symbols like the crest and the flag. Agitation has been targeted in Mandarin at PRC residents in the hope that they will take it back to China. Singing the US national anthem, this is not going to help. That’s my view,” said Mr Shanmugam.

“Look, Hong Kong is part of China. Beijing, will expect Hong Kong to adapt to the political structure that prevails in China. Adapt, not adopt. Some of the protestors seem to think that China will allow a very different system in Hong Kong. That is wishful thinking replacing reality.

“How will China’s leaders look at it? They didn’t discuss this with me and I don’t discuss this with them, I’m looking at this from outside. The history, past events, and looking at the Leaders’ Statements – my view [is that] they will say this is ultimately aiming at the Communist Party’s rule in China. They could think that’s the real aim. Are they going to be willing to accept that?”

International news coverage paints “confused, muddied picture” from “a very ideological lens”: K Shanmugam

International media coverage have not been very helpful in improving the situation, suggested Mr Shanmugam, as much of the reporting “reflects a very skewed perspective, from a very ideological lens”.

He added that a “confused, muddied picture” has been painted by international news organisations as they have engaged in “labelling” and dealt with “very superficial analysis” of the situation in Hong Kong, in which all protestors are “automatically” and “generally” depicted as “democracy fighters”, while police and the authorities are consistently framed as “an evil force”.

Stating that China’s system selects the very best people in government, and that it doesn’t get enough credit for uplifting more than 500-600 million people out of poverty over the last 35 years, Mr Shanmugam questioned if there is any other political system that “can do better for the people of China, compared to the current system”.

“Ideology is important. But it must square with reality,” he added.