Wife of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, Ho Ching is certainly no stranger to Facebook (FB) controversy. Known for her active presence on social media, she has once again waded into international affairs through her social media updates in an emotive time over issues of great sensitivity.
Both the east and west are battling social and political upheaval amid the coronavirus pandemic to boot. In Hong Kong, widespread protests have arisen over China’s proposal to pass new security laws in Hong Kong which could limit the democratic freedoms that the people of Hong Kong cherish. In the United States, protests over the unlawful killing of George Floyd by the police have generated a firestorm of protests, some of which have turned into riots.
In this highly charged atmosphere, Ho has uploaded on her FB page a cartoon depicting US President Donald Trump supporting protesters in Hong Kong throwing stones at a shop, calling it democracy while in his own backyard, he labels the protesters as thugs. Unsurprisingly, her post has attracted controversy and criticism.
While Ho is a private citizen in theory, she is the wife of the serving Prime Minister. In addition, she is also heads the powerful Temasek Holdings. In practice therefore, she isn’t really a private citizen and should really be more circumspect in how she expresses herself on social media.
Her words have the power to cause misunderstandings on the international stage which could in turn affect diplomatic relationships. At a time of economic upheaval caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, is it really a wise move to publicly call out the President of the United States? Our cabinet ministers including her husband, the Prime Minister, are already warning Singaporeans of tough times ahead and given how reliant our economy is on international trade, this is not the time to rock the boat.
This is also not the first time Ho has appeared to be trigger happy online. Just recently, she had offended the Taiwanese by posting “Errrr”, in response to reports that Taiwan would be donating 100,000 masks to Singapore to help it in its fight against the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic. This was interpreted by the Taiwanese public as sarcasm and caused widespread offence. The situation was then escalated when Ho shared a video of a talk show that discussed tensions between Singapore and Taiwan and a video that criticised Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen’s political party (Democratic Progressive Party) with an image showing ‘mask diplomacy fail”. While Ho later amended her posts and apologised to Taiwan, it would seem that many Taiwanese remain insulted.
Whatever Ho’s personal feelings are, she has to be mindful of the position she holds as the CEO of Temasek Holdings and as the wife of the serving Prime Minister. Whatever she says or does could easily be interpreted as the position that Singapore holds as a country. In other words, her actions can have a huge impact on the well being of Singapore! She really ought to be mindful of that every time she takes to social media to express her sentiments.
Why does she feel the need to express so many political views publicly anyway?