South China Morning Post (SCMP) reported yesterday (18 Oct) that video of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s speech delivered at the NTUC Conference on Tuesday (15 Oct) has gone viral on social media in China with many Chinese praising him (‘Singapore’s Lee Hsien Loong a social media hero in China for Hong Kong protest comments‘).
At the conference, PM Lee said that ongoing demonstrations in Hong Kong showed deep and widespread unhappiness, with the most vocal complaints being political.
“But underlying this is also the sense that serious economic and social concerns have not been addressed,” he continued, pointing to concerns about expensive housing and how the younger generation in Hong Kong is losing optimism about their future.
“If it happens to us, like what’s happening elsewhere, we will suffer the same consequences as the other countries, only worse because we are that much more vulnerable,” he warned.
“It will become impossible to govern Singapore, to make and carry out difficult decisions, or to plan for the long term good of the nation,” said PM lee. He added that Singapore would be “finished” if it were hit by Hong Kong-style protests.
SCMP reported that video of his speech has prompted many netizens in China to praise Singapore.
PM Lee’s remarks were quickly picked up by the Chinese state-owned Global Times newspaper owned by the People’s Daily, the official newspaper of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China.
Multiple posts about the speech also surfaced on the popular Chinese micro-blogging site, Weibo. One of them, published by Chinese news platform Guancha Syndicate, had received more than 4,400 likes and 600 comments by Thursday (17 Oct) afternoon.
One Chinese netizen said, “Singapore’s legal system is very good, and the government is efficient. It would be great if China could become like Singapore.”
Another said PM Lee’s political party PAP, had a “strong ability to control and rule”. He wrote, “The top-down action is not weak, so the situation is very different.”
On Wednesday (16 Oct) at the Forbes Global CEO Conference, PM Lee went on to criticise the Hong Kong’s protesters, saying they want to ‘humiliate’ the Hong Kong government rather than solve problems.
In his dialogue which was also picked up by media in China, PM Lee said that acceding to the 5 demands of Hong Kong’s anti-government protesters was unlikely to solve the deep-seated issues linked to “one country, two systems”.
“I don’t see any easy way forward because the demonstrators, they say they have five major demands, and not one can be compromised,” said PM Lee. The five demands of the protesters are: an inquiry into alleged police brutality; withdrawal of a controversial extradition bill; full amnesty for all those arrested during the protests; the retraction of the classification of protesters as “rioters”; and full universal suffrage in Hong Kong.
“But those are not demands which are meant to be a programme to solve Hong Kong’s problems,” PM Lee said. “Those are demands which are intended to humiliate and bring down the (Hong Kong) government.”
With regard to the positive reactions from Chinese netizens to PM Lee’s speech, SMU Law Professor Eugene Tan commented, “From the average person’s perspective in China, Lee’s remarks are germane as they see Singapore as a city state with an ethnic Chinese majority and a strong economy, not very different from Hong Kong.”
He said the remarks resonated with those who felt violence would not help to overcome the serious economic and social issues in Hong Kong.
PM Lee’s focus on positive outcomes would also appeal to the Chinese who had a renewed sense of optimism after celebrating 70 years of communist rule on the recent National Day, Prof Tan said. But he added, “To be sure, Lee’s remarks will not find a similar reception in Hong Kong.”
In the meantime, while PM Lee is busy commenting about developments in Hong Kong and receiving praises from the Chinese, the latest labour report from the Ministry of Manpower’s (MOM) had revealed that PMET unemployment in Singapore continues to climb.
Nearly half of the retrenched workers have a degree, and 70 per cent were over 40 years old. In fact, the proportion of PMETs among all retrenched workers has been rising over nearly the last decade despite their skills and qualifications. The rate of re-entering the workforce for PMETs after being retrenched for 6 months was reported to be 57.8 per cent in the second quarter. A large number remained unemployed even after 6 months.