SINGAPORE: Will China ever allow a different system of government in Hong Kong? That is “wishful thinking replacing reality” by some protesters, said Singapore’s Home Affairs and Law Minister K Shanmugam.
In an interview with South China Morning Post and Lianhe Zaobao – the transcript of which was released on the Ministry of Law’s website on Sunday (Aug 11) – Mr Shanmugam addressed questions about his views on the situation in Hong Kong.
Solutions have to be found, both for the socio-economic and ideological issues that Hong Kong is facing, he said. To solve the problems, Hong Kong needs a supportive China, and the solutions need to work for both Hong Kong and China, he added.
But with the “deeply entrenched positions” of some protesters on ideological issues, there is “no easy way forward” for Hong Kong, Mr Shanmugam said.
“Hong Kong is part of China. Beijing will expect Hong Kong to adapt to the political structure that prevails in China. Adapt, not adopt," he said.
“Some of the protestors seem to think that China will allow a very different system in Hong Kong. That is wishful thinking replacing reality,” he said. “How will China's leaders look at it?
“You sing the US national anthem, you speak in Mandarin and tell the Chinese tourists to go back and take these ideas back to China. The leaders could think Hong Kong is just the start, for something that some people want to hope to start in the rest of China.”
“IDEOLOGY MUST SQUARE WITH REALITY”
Mr Shanmugam’s comments came amid another tense weekend in Hong Kong, with demonstrators taking to the streets in a movement that began in opposition to a Bill allowing extradition to mainland China but has become a call for greater democratic freedoms.
The weeks of increasingly violent protests have plunged the city into its biggest political crisis for decades and pose a serious challenge to Beijing, which has condemned the protests and accused foreign powers of fuelling unrest.
In his interview, Mr Shanmugam also criticised international news organisations for their “very superficial analysis” and “engaging in labelling” on the events in Hong Kong.
“All protesters are automatically, generally, democracy fighters. Police, on the other hand, are oppressive, attacking the forces of democracy, using excessive force. ‘They’re negative, they’re an evil force.’”
Some of the news coverage reflects a “skewed perspective, from a very ideological lens”, he said.
China has “competent, (the) best people” in its government. And over 35 years, the country has lifted 500 million to 600 million people out of poverty, Mr Shanmugam said.
“No country has done that in history, in 35 years,” he said. “Not enough credit is given for that. It’s a huge achievement.”
Could that have been achieved under another system of government? Can another political system do better for the people of China, compared to the current system? There is none – and ideology must square with reality, Mr Shanmugam said.
“SINGAPORE BENEFITS FROM STABILITY IN THE REGION”
The minister also dismissed “superficial” comments that Singapore benefits from the instability in Hong Kong.
“We benefit from stability across the region, including Hong Kong. If China does well, Hong Kong does well, the region does well, we do well,” Mr Shanmugam said.
“There’s no profit in seeing instability. And if Hong Kong is at odds with China, it’s a problem for everyone, including us.”
Hong Kong’s strengths as a financial centre and its valuable position as an outpost for China are not going to go away overnight, he said.
READ: 'Hong Kong has no future like this': Singaporeans living in Hong Kong share their concerns about escalating protests
Mr Shanmugam also said the majority of Singaporeans think they are lucky that the same things are not happening in their home.
“If this happened to us, it would be bad for our economy and we don’t have the advantages that Hong Kong have to weather such a situation,” he said. “Hong Kong has the huge advantage of China’s support. Singapore has no one to support it.
“So from that perspective, I think Singaporeans see that and they say if this happens in Singapore, it will be very troublesome and they are grateful that it is not happening here.”