The leaked audio recording of Minister Chan Chun Sing’s remark over the public panic buying behaviour that circulated online captured the attention of Hong Kong media and netizens.
On 10 February, Mr Chan, who is the Minister for Trade and Industry, conducted a closed-door meeting with a group of business leaders organised by the Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SCCI) on the latest developments impacting the country’s economy and society.
As can be heard in the recording, Mr Chan used Singlish in the meeting, describing the government’s dilemma in handling the mask distribution and calling the Singaporeans’ behaviour of panic buying and hoarding essential items as “disgraceful” while describing people who do so as “idiots”.
Commenting on Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, who wore a mask at the press conference, Mr Chan frankly said that if everyone in the government wears a mask when attending press conferences like Ms Lam, it might stoke panic among the public and lead the country’s hospital system to being “broken down”.
He cited the media report on insufficient mask supplies for Hong Kong medical staff, saying, “What is happening to Hong Kong now? What did South China Morning Post just report about Hong Kong? They are down to less than one month supply of mask for their medical people. Which means that when the medical people don’t even get the mask, you think they dare to go and take care of the sick people?”
Mr Chan also criticised the behaviour of Singaporeans rushing to stockpile toilet paper like Hong Kong citizens as “monkey see monkey do”.
In fact, Hong Kong’s toilet paper supplies might come from mainland China but Singapore imports these goods from Malaysia and Indonesia, said Mr Chan.
He added, “No paper, water also can. So why do we behave so idiotically?”
Speaking on the panic buying of alcohol swabs as well as condoms, Mr Chan called them as “selfish idiots” because the alcohol swabs are originally used for medical purposes but people are now using them to “clean tables”.
He went on to say Singaporeans must not behave like idiots – as people are in Hong Kong. He further explained how this behaviour could impact the country’s international standing.
He noted, “Even if Hong Kong behaves badly like idiot, somebody will do business with them because they are part of China. Already got people trying to raise the price. Then you all behave like idiots, the foreign supplier lagi raise their price.”
The minister added, “Every country can behave like idiots, Singaporeans must not behave like idiots. Then we behave properly, then we show the world how different we can be. Then people will have confidence.”
Following the leak of audio recording, SCCI issued a clarification notice stating that the act of its grassroots member who leaked the audio recording is “unacceptable and deeply disappointing”.
The letter, which was penned by Mr Roland Ng, President of SCCCI, explained that the leaked audio recording was unauthorized and a clear breach of trust, noting that all its participating members were already informed that it was a closed-door dialogue and should be off-the-record before, during, and after the session.
“It has done damage to SCCCI’s standing as a chamber of high repute,” SCCCI stated in the notice. “This has betrayed the trust that SCCCI has built with Minister Chan over the years.”
Hong Kong’s response to Minister Chan Chun Sing’s remark
The remark of Mr Chan for calling people panic buying as “disgraceful” and urging Singaporeans to not follow Hong Kong citizen’s behaviour has been reported by Hong Kong online media, such as Headline Daily and Sing Tao Daily.
As a result, Hong Kong netizens felt offended by Mr Chan’s remark. They claimed that although it was not a good behaviour to practice hoarding, but for Singapore who does not understand the actual situation in Hong Kong and called it as “disgraceful” is not appropriate.
One netizen Andala Ho explained that the situation in Singapore is different with Hong Kong as Hong Kong was affected badly due to coronavirus outbreak because most of its food and essential items are imported from China.
(Translated: Indeed, but it is also inappropriate for a minister to comment and mock other country.)
(Translated: This is improper to criticise Hong Kong as Singapore also faced panic buying, rising price of face masks and spreading rumours.)
Few netizens also penned their opinion on the reasons behind the panic buying. One of the reasons cited was the lack of confidence in government – which can be seen in the protests that lasted for about eight months in Hong Kong last year.
(Translated: The dictatorship resulted from one-party ruling lead to lack of security and faith in the citizens. That’s why the panic buying situation happened in Hong Kong.)
(Translated: Hong Kong citizens panic buying showed government’s incompetence.)
Some netizens mocked that Singapore ought to have a good solution for the outbreak of coronavirus. But despite so, panic buying situation still happened in Singapore as well.
(Translated: We have to depend on ourselves as government could not provide any assistance. Hopefully Singapore find a solution to deal with the coronavirus when the outbreak happens.)
(Translated: Before criticising other countries, Singapore should find some measures to control the coronavirus epidemic first as there are more confirmed infected cases in Singapore than Hong Kong.)
(Translated: “Point at the mulberry tree and curse the locust tree”, panic buying happened in Singapore as well.)
(Translated: Singaporeans show more extreme in panic buying where the supermarkets being cleared of items.)
However, some Hong Kong netizens agreed that the panic buying situation in Hong Kong would likely be mocked by the entire world.
(Translated: This is true! It reflected our image in the international arena.)
(Translated: Hong Kong citizens showed global a negative example of how selfish and idiot we are.)
(Translated: As a Hong Kong citizen, I also feel ashamed of our citizens’ behaviours.)