Why Hong Kong and China must listen to Singapore’s Lee: Political consultant

Lee Kuan Yew's line of thought that Hong Kong is “part of China and this is a big psychological change which is not easy for the population to get used to”.

In an analysis on what Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong recently said on Hong Kong’s prolonged unrest, Alice Wu a political consultant and a former associate director of the Asia Pacific Media Network at UCLA, concludes that both Hong Kong and China must listen to his views.

The analysis which appeared in the South China Morning Post today says Lee made thoughtful comments without all the hyperbolic dressing and they are refreshing.

Speaking at a dialogue with Steve Forbes at the Forbes Global CEO Conference on Oct 17, Mr Lee called for “wisdom and restraint” from China and Hong Kong to make the “one country, two systems” formula work.

Wu says Lee spoke a lot more than what was most widely reported – that the protesters’ demands are not meant to be a programme to solve Hong Kong’s problems but are “intended to humiliate and bring down the government”.

The writer laments that mainland media immediately picked up on this turning Lee into a quite a hero there, but he did not dismiss people’s grievances as livelihood issues or merely blame the unaffordable property market.

“He sees deep-seated political issues related to one country, two systems that his father, Singapore’s founding father Lee Kuan Yew, had warned about long ago.”

Lee Kuan Yew

The writer says the late senior Lee sounded prescient words for Hong Kong almost two decades ago when he spoke about the challenge for Hong Kong and Beijing to trust and accommodate one another. That was in the year 2000.

After the passing of Lee Kuan Yew in 2015, the Wall Street Journal wrote that Singapore’s founding father had some prescient words for Hong Kong, warning of inevitable strife between the two places.

He believed that if Hongkongers wanted more democracy and autonomy; they needed to convince Beijing that this would work within the boundaries set in the city’s mini-constitution.

The SCMP post says Lee Hsien Loong continued Lee Kuan Yew’s line of thought when he told CNN’s Fareed Zakaria this month that Hong Kong is “part of China and this is a big psychological change which is not easy for the population to get used to”.

“It would be wise for all – from those intent on throwing Molotov cocktails to the powers that be in Zhongnanhai – to take heed. So far, no one has been able to articulate the complexities and nuances of the city’s problems better than the Lees,” wrote Wu.

“There is merit in Lee’s assertion that protesters’ uncompromising demands humiliate the administration, because this is the only language that would get Beijing to stop and listen. The years of indirect clashes of words and values have left many feeling helpless.”

“Most importantly, both sides must accept that all of this pain has accumulated over decades of sweeping political issues and difficult dialogue under the carpet.”