"In the East, the main objective is to have an orderly society so that everybody can enjoy his freedom to the maximum. Such freedom can only exist in an orderly state and not in a natural state of contention and anarchy,” Singapore’s late founding prime minister, Lee Kuan Yew, once said.
One of the world’s most erudite statesmen, like his late father, the city-state’s incumbent prime minister, Lee Hsien Loong, has enunciated what an increasing number of us fellow Asians strongly think — that the often violent, lawless and anarchic protests harming Hong Kong are wrong and untenable.
As leader of the globe’s most competitive economy ranked by the World Economic Forum, Lee Hsien Loong had, on two recent occasions, uttered brutally frank, discerning and sagacious comments criticizing the chaotic, nihilistic and quixotic protests wreaking havoc on the world’s third-most competitive economy, Hong Kong.
Lee is correct when he said the Hong Kong protesters’ demands are unrealistic, that such prolonged, chaotic protests threaten the social fabric and very existence of a society. His city-state is a model of how social discipline, political stability and harmony have ensured economic dynamism, strong foreign investor confidence and success.
Having led the Lion City — the wealthiest economic powerhouse in the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations — for 15 years, the Cambridge University-educated younger Lee has no vested personal or political interests in Hong Kong. Therefore, he’s most credible and objective in his dispassionate third-party analysis.
To those misguided radical protesters and foreign politicians agitating independence, listen carefully to Lee, who said: “Hong Kong is not a country, it’s a special administrative region. It has to live and work within the special administrative region framework, which is the Basic Law.”
The Singaporean leader didn’t mince his words when he unequivocally said in an Oct 15 speech before the nation’s main labor group, the National Trades Union Congress that his country would be “finished” if it were hit by the Hong Kong-style protests.
If the tyranny of the Hong Kong-style mob protests were allowed, reforms and governance would not be possible, and the entire society would suffer. He elaborated: “It would become impossible to govern Singapore, to make and carry out difficult decisions, or to plan for the long-term good of the nation. Confidence in Singapore would be destroyed. I think Singapore would be finished.”
The following day, at the Forbes Global CEO Conference held in Singapore, Lee elucidated about the Hong Kong protesters’ so-called five main demands, saying: “Those are not demands which are meant to be a program to solve Hong Kong’s problems. Those are demands which are intended to humiliate and bring down the government. And then what? Well, I think if you press the question, some of them, if they were candid, would say ‘Well, I don’t know, ... and anyway, I’m not happy, I want this to happen.’ And that’s the most unfortunate state to be in. We’ve got to be able to move beyond that.”
To those misguided radical protesters and foreign politicians agitating independence, listen carefully to Lee, who said: “Hong Kong is not a country, it’s a special administrative region. It has to live and work within the special administrative region framework, which is the Basic Law. I think it can be made to work, it’s not easy.”
Lee is not biased or ill-informed about Hong Kong, a city that shares many similarities with Singapore since both are financial, logistics and tourism hubs. Both are Chinese-majority societies and former British colonies. However, Hong Kong has various distinct advantages over Singapore, which his late father had said he envied, such as without having to spend billions of dollars on defense like Singapore.
The late Lee Kuan Yew also said that unlike Singapore, Hong Kong could also benefit from favorable policies of the central government of the world’s second-largest economy, such as when Beijing literally spoon-fed Hong Kong several measures to support its then hard-hit economy after the SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) crisis in 2003.
With social peace, Hong Kong can thrive again like Singapore. In fact, it can easily become much more, due to being just next door to the world’s No 1 biggest consumer market and possibly gaining strong support from the fast-rising economy of the Chinese mainland.
Hong Kong’s mostly young protesters must wake up, heed the wise words of Lee Hsien Loong. Hopefully, they can redirect their social angst, emotions and restless energies elsewhere. Be proactive and exert positive efforts to help create a better and more harmonious Hong Kong society instead of recklessly endangering, firebombing and sabotaging its collective future.
The author is an analyst, columnist of the Philippine Star and Pilipino Star Ngayon, and winner of a record 15 Catholic Mass Media Awards and three Palanca literary awards.
HONG KONG NEWS