New Naratif editor-in-chief Kirsten Han calls out The Straits Times for reproducing “propaganda” China Daily articles

Editor-in-chief of Southeast Asian journalism platform New Naratif Kirsten Han has criticised The Straits Times for “directly republishing” articles from China Daily, a “propaganda paper owned by the Publicity Department of the Chinese Communist Party”.

Ms Han uploaded an image of the print edition of the article titled “HK protests show signs of colour revolution: Experts” last Fri (8 Sep), and highlighted the source at the end of the article (“CHINA DAILY/ASIA NEWS NETWORK”).

A cursory search of the article online by TOC garnered two versions on the ST website. The first version, which cited China Daily as its source, was published on Wed (6 Sep) without an image:

Source: ST

The second version was published the following day at 5am with a featured image, but without the source:


Source: ST

Ms Han also pointed out in her Facebook post that ST has “previously also gone on a trip they organised to Xinjiang”, which she said resulted in “a disgraceful op-ed“.

“[B]ut hey, tell me again how it’s Pingtjin Thum and I who are the dangerous “foreign influence” agents,” said Ms Han.

ST‘s Associate Editor Ravi Velloor, in his observation of what China calls “re-education” camps, said that “it is not easy to fault a state that will not tolerate significant sections of its people feeling a stronger loyalty to a transnational ideology that is not only alien to its own laws and culture, but also seeks to influence them into violence against non-believers”, in reference to the “extremists” who are “rehabilitated” in such camps.

“Many of the inmates had undergone a measure of self-radicalisation after downloading extremist videos from the Internet on their smartphones,” Mr Velloor wrote, adding that inmates at the camps learn the Chinese language and law, “some technical skills”, and Uighur music and dance if they wish.

“From an administrative point of view, the measures have been effective without question. Xinjiang province has escaped a terror strike for the past 30 months,” he added.

Mr Velloor wrote, contrary to “Western media accounts” of the Xinjiang camps, that “there were no security guards at the door or barbed wire on the walls”.

“The place had the air of a boarding school and, indeed, the school authorities asserted that the inmates could go home on weekends if they chose to,” he added.

Meanwhile, CNN reported last Tue (5 Sep) that as many as one million Uyghur Muslims have been detained in the camps, and branded the minority group as “among the most surveilled groups of people on the planet”.

“Areas with heavy Uyghur populations are rife with security cameras and facial recognition systems, and residents are often relentlessly tracked,” CNN observed, alleging that hackers linked to the Chinese government are going as far as to compromise websites that are popular with the Uyghurs, infecting Android phones and iPhones in order to enable easier access for the purpose of surveillance.

Netizens however appear unsurprised by ST‘s act of publishing China Daily’s articles:

One netizen noted that ST had also published a New York Times article “of near equal length underneath” in what may be “an attempt at balance”:

Ms Han’s “foreign influence agents” remark presumably alludes to the controversy stemming from a meeting between herself and the Prime Minister of Malaysia Mahathir Mohamad over a year ago in the administrative capital of Putrajaya.

Singaporean political activist and lawyer in exile Tan Wah Piow, Singaporean historian Dr Thum Ping Tjin, Singaporean social worker Jolovan Wham, award-winning graphic novelist Sonny Liew, and veteran Malaysian political activist Hishamuddin Rais were also present at the meeting.

Two days after the meeting, People’s Action Party (PAP) Member of Parliament (MP) Seah Kian Peng published a Facebook post alleging historian Dr Thum of inviting Dr Mahathir to ‘bring democracy to Singapore’ while also suggesting that Singapore is part of Malaya.

The controversy resulted in Dr Thum, Ms Han, and other Singaporeans who were present at the meeting being called “traitors” by certain factions in Singapore.

Minister of Home Affairs and Law Mr K Shanmugam chimed in later on, suggesting that Thum and the rest of the Singaporeans present at the meeting were inviting foreign powers to intervene in Singapore politics.

Speaking to reporters on the sidelines of a grassroots event on 2 Sep last year, Shanmugam said that while “political differences” can exist “within Singapore”, as “it is the people’s right” to be able to dissent, Singaporeans “should never go out and invite someone foreign [or a] foreign politician to intervene in our domestic politics”.

“I mean, Dr Thum puts up a photo holding his book on politics in Singapore shaking hands with a Malaysian Prime Minister, then puts up a foreign post saying that he invites Dr Mahathir to take a leading role in promoting democracy, human rights, freedom of speech in South East Asia … I think it is quite clear what that means,” he said.

He also pointed out that Ms Han had put up a post saying “that is for South East Asia, not Singapore”.

“Where is Singapore if not in South East Asia. Do we need a geography lesson?” Shanmugam charged.