DBS’ red packets printed with controversial inauspicious Chinese character

The Chinese media reported on Tuesday (21 Jan) that DBS in its efforts to be creative in promoting “climate change” awareness, changed the words of some Chinese idioms on its red packets to help promote environmental awareness.

It was found that on some of its red packets for this Chinese New Year, it changed the Chinese idiom “花开富贵” (‘blossoming fortune’) to “花开富归” with the message:

This is the perfect time to see 花开富贵 (‘blooming flowers bring prosperity’). To take a stand against climate change, why not wish for 花开富归 (‘prosperity to return when nature flourishes’) as well?

On the front of the red packet, the 4 characters “花开富归” were also prominently featured with the altered character “归” on it.

It’s an attempt by DBS to play on the 2 similarly sounding words, “贵” and “归”. The former meant expensive, noble or precious while the latter meant “to return”.

However, the word “归” printed on the red packets has generated much debates online and offline among the public because “归” is also a euphemism to mean “passing away” or “to die”, like “归西” (return to the West – Nirvana) or “归天” (return to heaven). Moreover, some people also pointed out that the word “归” is generally used in obituaries and funerals.

Some think that it’s not auspicious to use such word during Chinese New Year while others are alright with it. One person told the media, “Fortunately, I found out in time, otherwise it will be bad if I distribute such red packets to relatives and friends.”

First Asian bank to have a climate policy

Two years ago, DBS became the first Asian bank to launch a climate policy. Its new policy, published on the same day that Singapore declared 2018 to be the Year of Climate Action, consists of four pledges to tackle climate change.

They include a commitment to reduce the bank’s own environmental footprint, promote sustainable finance, lend responsibly, and make climate-related financial disclosures.

At the launch of its climate policy, DBS CEO Piyush Gupta said, “Climate change affects us all and we seek to do our part to ensure a clean energy future. It is with this in mind that we have pledged to support Singapore’s ‘Year of Climate Action’. I believe that our commitments will result in substantial impact in the years to come.”

After DBS came out with its climate policy, however, environmental campaigner and activist Julien Vincent, noted that the bank’s policy “changes nothing” about its involvement with the coal industry.

“Currently, DBS is involved in banking syndicates for new polluting coal power stations, and their policy would not take the bank out of a single one,” Mr Vincent said in an interview. “There is a deep cynicism in coming out with language that might look like DBS is acting, but the practical application is that nothing has to change.”

Mr Vincent also pointed out that DBS’s policy excludes coal power plants in OECD countries, where DBS is not involved in the sector, yet keeps the door open for polluting coal in developing countries. “This suggests that DBS thinks it’s okay for wealthy countries to enjoy the economic and environmental benefits of renewable energy while poor countries can keep having their air polluted,” he cynically added.

Under pressure, DBS finally announced last April that it would cease financing new coal-fired power plants in any market, after honouring existing commitments especially those in South East Asia.


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