, 26 tweets, 10 min read Read on Twitter
1/ On #Singapore and the #HongKongProtests: This is a comment left on my FB after I shared @limlouisa’s excellent @nytopinion op-ed. It’s one guy w/o a pic but I don’t think he’s a troll + I’ve seen this same sentiment expressed by other Singaporeans so had some thoughts...
2/ First, the disclaimer: I don’t know how representative Robert Wee’s views are of Singaporeans in general—I just know that it’s not uncommon. There are also some instances of this, although again, not sure how representative:
3/ I feel like the sentiment of “the protesters should just understand and accept they are a part of China and 2047 is coming” tells us more about Singaporeans than about anything happening in #HongKongProtests. And it has an impact on our own politics + civil society.
4/ Singaporeans are very goal/outcome-oriented. We like to know what exactly we want to achieve, and the likelihood of success. Basically, we want to know if something is worth investing time/energy/money/resources into before we dump all those resources into it.
5/ This is of course excellent for some things and useful in many scenarios, but is much less great when it comes to things like the struggle for democracy.
6a/ When a Singaporean says “HK should just accept it is part of China”, what they’re saying is that China and the CCP are so big and powerful that you can’t possibly win, so this is a futile struggle. Implied: the chance of success is miserable, so why are you working so hard?
6b/ Not only will you not get the democracy you want—‘cos you can’t beat the CCP—you'll get teargassed, beaten, arrested, jailed. So why put yourself on the line like that for a fight you’re going to lose? You’ll end up w/o what you want + more misfortune upon yourself.
7/ When a Singaporean says this, they aren’t necessarily being pro-Beijing (although some might be). This is just the calculus that has been applied to the situation—and Singaporeans apply this to our own local political context too.
8/ I’ve heard this same logic deployed for local matters. “The PAP can and will do whatever it wants so there is no use trying so hard to resist.” I’ll ask people to support a petition or campaign and they’ll say there’s no point, it’s not going to mean anything.
9/ I think there are Singaporeans (again, not sure how many w/o rigorous survey) who are baffled, maybe even angered, by what they see as HKers putting in a huge amount of effort for something they aren’t gonna win. Although as @KongTsungGan points out, HKers *have* won before.
10/ I was having dinner with a Singaporean friend and a HK friend a couple of nights ago and we were comparing moods in civil society. While HKers are exhausted but doing what they can, we talked about how the mood in Singapore seems to be a sort of despondency.
11/ It becomes a vicious cycle: ‘cos people aren’t motivated to take risks and participate in resistance, the powerful are far more likely to win and win again, making resistance seem even more futile. The struggle for activists in #Singapore is to break this cycle.
12/ And that requires A TON of political education to first convince people that there are things outside what is seen as immediate “bread and butter” concerns that are worth taking risks and fighting for.
13/ We also need to hammer home the message that we need to value process as much as (if not more than) outcome—some things are worth doing even if we think they are “lost causes”. That’s why I wrote this for @thenation: thenation.com/article/singap…
14/ More Singaporeans need to value democracy and democratic institutions as fundamental principles and structures, rather than as a means to an end (housing/utility prices, good jobs, etc.) even though those “bread and butter” matters are of course crucial.
15/ It does real harm to our psyche as a society when we collectively feel like we are irrelevant or powerless over what is happening in our own home. It’s not just a matter of which political party is in power, but the political imagination and vibrancy of an entire nation.
16/ I think what #HongKongProtests demonstrates is that, not only is democracy not solely defined by having elections, it’s not something that the powerful has to grant you—it’s a gruelling ongoing process that every citizen has to actively fight for day-to-day.
17/ And this is a lesson that a lot of us in Singapore have to constantly learn and relearn. Our reactions to struggles elsewhere show us where we’re at, and how far we have to go.
2.1/ Adding to this thread on #Singapore and #HongKongProtests: today in our only general news broadsheet @STcom we have Sanctimonious Unker Fong (former editor of ST and author of this eyeroll-inducing @SCMPNews op-ed scmp.com/week-asia/opin…) mansplaining all over the newsprint.
2.2/ He refers to the protesters who stormed LegCo as a “mob” on a “rampage”, says thousands of peaceful protesters “succumbed to the scare-mongering” about #extraditionbill and says giving peoppr affordable housing will be more effective than “any talk of political reform”.
2.3/ At the end, though, he concludes that the #HongKong education system needs to be reviewed and “politicised teachers and lecturers” who are “indoctrinating” students should be removed. Oh, and ban masked protests so people will “think twice before they hurl the next brick”.
2.4/ Mr Fong is also assumes that the #HongKong police have exercised restraint. Even though there is evidence this is not the case: amnesty.org/en/latest/news…

And hey, it’s the *protesters’* fault for provoking Beijing so Beijing will crack down on them and make China look bad! 🤦🏻‍♀️
2.5/ Leslie Fong was a veteran editor with @STcom (and also had a stint as chief editor of a mainstream Chinese language daily). He’s credited with grooming many journalists still in the newsroom today, including ST’s current chief editor Warren Fernandez. straitstimes.com/singapore/sph-…
2.6/ Again here we can see the #Singapore establishment narrative not just about #HongKongProtests but about protests in general: Unruly. Dangerous. Chaotic. Undesirable. This is sold to Singaporeans over and over so we develop a revulsion to the idea.
2.7/ Also, a willingness to be credulous when it comes to authority and give the powerful the benefit of doubt—while quick to condemn those w/ less power. Or not even recognising structural power dynamics at all, as if protesting kids are on the same level as govt or riot police.
2.8/ Also, an inability to imagine that it’s possible people care about more than just “bread and butter”. Fong can’t seem to understand that HKers care about housing prices, BUT ALSO political reform and democracy. Or they see political reform AS A WAY to tackle other crises.
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