Rooting Out Racism From The Roots

Rooting out racism from the roots

Almost immediately after our badge-demanding former naval officer became famous overnight, a polytechnic lecturer stole the limelight by chastising a mixed-race couple. Then, there is this gong lady who struck her gong (bought from Taobao?) loudly and repeatedly when her Indian neighbour was sounding his prayer bell. Both lecturer and gong lady are now under police investigation. The lecturer has even been suspended. But is stress due to Covid to blame for all this? Is this racism? Could gong lady merely be childishly retaliating against something which annoyed her?

The knee jerk reaction to all this is disgust. But are we really being fair to the lecturer? Are you not showing double standards?

Quote:

Mr (S.) Rajaratnam was the exponent of “we can create a race of Singaporeans”. Idealistically, I would go along with him. But, realistically, I knew it was going to be one long, hard slog; maybe we’ll never get there, but we should try.Ask yourself this question. If your child brings back a boyfriend or a girlfriend of a different race, will you be delighted? I will answer you frankly. I do not think I will. I may eventually accept it. So it is deep in the psyche of a human being.

Lee Kuan Yew

We can argue that Mr Lee was not a racist, but it’s undeniable that he did not see mixed marriages as a norm that is readily accepted in Singapore society or probably even within his family.

Rooting Out Racism From The Roots

As we ponder over definitions, there was a time when I was worried that “racism” could take on a new meaning very different from what we learned in primary school. When we complained of overcrowding on our tiny island from liberal immigration policies, scholarships being granted to foreign students who can’t even converse in English at PSLE level, we were accused of xenophobia. When we complained about nationals from a certain South Asian country dominating the banking sector and high risk arrivals from that South Asian country thwarting our Covid prevention efforts, we have been accused of racism.

Fortunately or unfortunately, the definition of racism has been somewhat cleaned up by obvious and bona fide cases trending on social media nowadays. We are getting a bit closer to the real meaning of racism, but while cases involving the majority race despising a minority race are often highlighted for all to condemn, what about instances in which the tables are turned? I’m not sure if other Chinese people had the same experience, but I had a friend who was threatened by a Malay man for dating his daughter. Can such incidents make it on social media other than the “safer” complaint about an Indian comedian pretending to be an unsavoury Chinese character?

Let’s face. In spite of the veneer of racial harmony in this country, there is and there has always been some invisible divide out there which is not removed by wearing one’s ethnic costume on Racial Harmony Day. It’s simplistic and cosmetic. The more we regard these as sensitive issues and the less we’re willing to discuss them, the more they fester under the surface. We may think that we have made bigger strides than Malaysia, but let me ask you, do you think a person like Namewee could have succeeded in Singapore? He would have been silenced from the first sentence of “Negarakuku” and be banned for life.

PN Lodged Police Report Against Namewee's Latest Movie "Babi" - Hype  Malaysia

What about Douglas Lim and his parodies? Do you think he could have survived as an a comedian cum influencer making fun of a Malay politician in Singapore? Our performers are instantly brought to task for imitating another race!

Indeed, we would be fooling ourselves to think that we have been successful in cultivating racial harmony instead of silencing racists, avoiding sensitive topics while nitpicking to comb out apparent “racists”. But what about the real instances of racism? As fate would have it, Covid popped the lid open and the worms are laid bare.

Regrettably, a lot of inter-ethnic suspicion and mistrust have their roots in our shared history. And it’s unfortunate that the history we learned from informal sources like friends and seniors, or even formal sources like mediocre educators is often incomplete or even inaccurate. Truth be told, it’s only in recent years that I found time to dig deeper and understand better.

Mao Zedong dining with Sukarno

Looking at how things are going in the world today, I fear that history may repeat itself. Before Suharto’s Pancasila, there was Sukarno’s Nasakom – negara, agama (religion), Komunisme (Communism). Yes, you didn’t misread. Communism. China was powerful and prosperous before and after 大跃进 and Sukarno was a big fan of Mao. The PKI had quite a number of seats in the Indonesian government running on Sukarno’s brand of “guided democracy”, later used by one of our leaders without raising any eyebrows because fee people knew Indonesian history.

Mao Zedong with Sukarno in Beijing

Also warmly received by Mao, was DN, leader of the PKI, Partai Komunis Indonesia. After an important meeting with Mao, Sukarno suddenly opposed the formation of Malaysia. The Tunku ignored his protests and went ahead. Sukarno then instigated the invasion of Brunei by a Kalimantan militant force and wanted to whole of Borneo to be Indonesian territory. The British came to our rescue. Even though China successfully tested its own atomic bomb in 1964 and Sukarno had already pre-ordered it, the Indonesian armed forces were not ready to fight the British face to face.

Mao Zedong with communist leader Aidit

Indonesian troops then unleashed Konfrontasi on Malaysia in 1964, conducting sabotage operations and stirring ethnic tensions which resulted in racial riots. Then, a “hero” emerged. He was an anti-communist general by the name of Suharto. His counter coup against the PKI’s military coup in September 1965 (apparently to turn Indonesia red for good) put an end to Konfrontasi – a Communist insurgency (with blessings from you know who) often misinterpreted as an ethnic war. Wary that China’s influence would eventually destroy the values that Indonesia holds dear, he deposed Sukarno, cut ties with China and went on a witch-hunt to purge the country of its communists.

What followed is commonly known as 排华 from the ethnic Chinese perspective, but the original intention was to weed out Communism. Regrettably, Suharto enlisted the help of local militias and religious zealots and all hell broke loose. Over 2 million people were killed according to latest estimates, many of them innocent Indonesians. Contrary to popular belief, many times more non-Chinese than Chinese people were killed in that horrific massacre.

Suharto also placed Christian officers in key military appointments to balance the Muslim influence. If Suharto were truly anti-Chinese like some of seniors would have us believe, Indonesian Chinese people would be begging on the streets. Chinese people in Malaysia (which included Singapore) who were not communists were caught between a rock and a hard place. Suharto’s massacre made us angry but without Suharto, we could well have become a part of communist Indonesia. Also regrettably is the fact that many Chinese people of my generation have been brought up with the mistaken impression that there is only one race in Indonesia, they are all Muslims and they have 排华 tendencies.

Will history repeat itself? Well, we should keep an eye on the Indonesian leader and his relationship with some powerful Northeast Asian country.

May be an image of 1 person and standing

Finally, allow me to share a video which looks a lot deeper into the recent anti-Asian rhetoric and violence in the USA. In the video, Mr Fang revealed that churches in America give out free food to the poor and homeless. As long as you’re not Karen Carpenter, you won’t starve. I’ve also seen similar charitable acts in China, but the free food is usually in the form of plain porridge and preserved vegetables. Perhaps they are not as generous as the American donors. Perhaps, they understand the potential for abuse and exploitation which gullible Americans don’t.

Chinese people who could well afford to buy their own food plundered these food distribution centres in America, something behaving entitled and sometimes reselling the donated food items for personal profit. And I’m ashamed to admit that I won’t trust many of my own kiasu, kiasi and gian png people not to behave the same way.

I’ve encountered some form of racism or rather racial prejudice in Australia myself. When my sons and I stepped out of a shop without buying anything, the security guard checked our bags. On another occasion, a shopkeeper told us (in very slow and laboured English) that we had to put the items back on the shelf after browsing even before we picked anything up. But over 90% of social interactions we had with Australians had been positive in all our visits. In fact it’s even more positive than our experiences in Singapore. Why did these suspicious and presumptuous people at the shops behave that way? Is it only because of our skin colour? Or does our skin colour remind them of previous bad experiences?

Yes, it’s important that we call out instances of racism. But what’s more important, is to realise that a lot of racist behaviour is not instigated by skin colour alone. Taking a shallow view of racists makes us just as shallow. I’ve mentioned before in this blog, not just the biggest threat to our racial harmony, but also a threat to our sovereignty is something which Prof Tommy Koh called Chinese chauvinism – something which we pay a lot less attention to compared to religious radicalism. Allow me to highlight a recent encounter. An intellectual from China said “We had our era of humiliation. The period under British colonial rule was your era of humiliation. Why do you still use English as your official language? Why not use Chinese? You could be closer to China.”

I’m sure you know what the standard Singaporean reply would be. But the Chinese intellectual’s reply to that reply was also quite standard – only that many Singaporeans are not aware of it:

“You are the majority. Our minorities have to use Chinese.”

© Chan Joon Yee


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Sinovac- the proudest & loudest vaccine

Sinovac is the proudest and loudest coronavirus vaccine plaguing Singapore now. A Chinese netizen working in Singapore (@xiaoqige567 on TikTok) has audaciously mocked what he believed to be our self-sabotaging foreign policy and rejection of China’s vaccine diplomacy. I shall do an intellectual dissection of his video which unfortunately comes with very poorly translated English subtitles – which is why I’m reluctant to share the video itself.

But first, let’s go back a bit to 23 February 2021 when we first received a shipment of 200,000 doses Sinovac from China. This vaccine was ordered last year in anticipation that the complete results from the trials would be released soon. Unfortunately, what the health authorities anticipated from China was not forthcoming. Do we continue to wait? No, the authorities decided to approve it with caveats. It was not till 2 June 2021 that China’s Sinovac COVID-19 vaccine can be administered in Singapore under the special access route after it was approved for emergency use by the World Health Organization (WHO). However, use of Sinovac is not covered under VIFAP.

If Sinovac is safe enough to be allowed for use, under the Special Access Route (SAR), why is it not part of the national vaccination programme and covered by the Vaccine Injury Financial Assistance Programme (VIFAP)?

MOH:

These are two separate decisions.

For vaccines to come under the national vaccination programme, it has to go through a rigorous evaluation of its safety and efficacy. From global and local data, both the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines met these criteria. We are still awaiting some outstanding data on the Sinovac vaccine to complete our evaluation

In the meantime, we will put the Sinovac vaccine under the Special Access Route, so that private providers can draw on our existing stock to administer to individuals who wish to have it. 

“However, since the China-made vaccine is not part of the national vaccine programme, those who choose to receive it will not be eligible for the Vaccine Injury Financial Assistance Programme (VIFAP).”

Now, let’s dissect the video. Before I begin, I need to point out that though the translation in the subtitles is somewhat inaccurate, the Chinese language at this level can be subtly provocative. The title audaciously warns us not to choose the wrong side and end up foregoing a watermelon for a sesame seed. Here goes.

“There is finally news about the vaccine that we’ve been waiting day and night in anticipation.”

热烈欢呼全国第四届人民代表大会胜利召开宣传画POSTER OF WARM CELEBRATION FOR THE SUCCESSFUL OPENING  OF THE 4TH NATIONAL PEOPLES CONGRESS by Shandong Exhibition Studio on artnet

“I’m not sure if you have watched Mr Lee’s 24-min speech. The message he intended to convey was roughly within my expectation. There are several very noteworthy points about the news concerning Chinese vaccines. Firstly, Singapore is going to roll out, apart from what has already been done for Pfizer, Moderna and other vaccines that WHO had approved for emergency use, Sinopharm and hitherto unapproved Sinovac Biotech vaccines which will be administered by private institutions. The bad news is, we have to pay for our vaccinations. That’s right, you have to pay for it yourself. The actual cost will depend on what these private institutions charge. I believe it’s not going to be cheap.”

“Apart from that, if you develop any adverse effects from the administration of Chinese vaccines, the Singapore government will not be responsible. I’m not sure whether to celebrate or to lament. For me, I can’t find enough words to describe how I feel. I can only chuckle sardonically. I just want to get a made in China vaccine. Why must it be so difficult? Vaccines are just vaccines. Why must they be treated so differently? Is it a cost factor? Or is the constitution of Singaporeans more suited to vaccines made in USA?”

“Can’t bear to look mighty China in the eye? Or pandering to America’s whims and fancies? Or are you waiting for tens of thousands of Chinese workers to return to China and leave all the job vacancies for Singaporeans? I don’t think this is a price that Singapore can afford to pay. As a foreign worker in Singapore, I can accept unequal treatment. But I cannot accept such a cavalier attitude towards the feelings of tens of thousands of Chinese people. I believe there are many “stories” behind Singapore’s choice of vaccines. Working in Singapore, Chinese people more or less do contribute to Singapore’s GDP. I hope Singapore’s talent in being an opportunist and fair-weather friend does not apply here. Just let the issues of vaccines be purely an issue of vaccines (untainted by other factors). I’m Xiaoqi, speaking on behalf of tens of thousands of brothers and sisters working in Singapore.”

lihailewodeguo图片大全_lihailewodeguo图片在线观看- 梨子网

Well, what do you make of it? Xiaoqi’s language is subtle. The translation is laughably awful and presumptuous, but that’s more to do with the translator’s emotive response and not his lack of knowledge. He had added a lot of salt and pepper, but on the whole, there are only a few minor inaccuracies. His interpretation of Xiaoqi’s warrior wolf attitude behind the subtle language is not far off. Xiaoqi had every intention to deride and insult us.

If you look closely, Xiaoqi’s pompous speech is a bag of contradictions. “Can’t bear to look powerful China in the eye?” sums up his bottled feelings of superiority. I know more than a few people from China who had gladly taken the free Pfizer or Moderna vaccine (without making an issue of it or waiting for Sinovac). Could Xiaoqi be ranting because he has to pay for showing patriotism? Well, who doesn’t? Our NDP cost taxpayers $40M.

If paying for it is such an issue, why couldn’t he have just quietly gone for Pfizer and Moderna? Because he is a 网红 who is obliged to set a good example for other patriotic Chinese nationals? Or is he just a 网红 wannabe trying to become famous by garnering support from fellow patriots? Well, he might want to know that many of his 领导 actually waited day and night secretly in anticipation for Pfizer and Moderna vaccines.

More contradictions. He complained about our government not taking responsibility for adverse effects. But why would he need any support in this area if Sinovac were really a superior vaccine? I believe he trusts Sinovac, but he thinks it’s an insulting move and he thinks it’s personal. He thinks it’s political in nature because from his perspective and upbringing, every decision not in favour of or deference to hegemonic China is political, foolish and immoral. With his mindset still stuck in a society that is even more intolerant to alternative views than Singapore, he cannot see any other reason why we would treat Sinovac differently apart from his belief that we look up to the US and not to China. But what do the numbers tell us?

Outside the great firewall in Singapore where the internet is minimally censored, Xiaoqi climbed back behind the wall to read all the propaganda and censored news. It’s such an irony that he said that we should decide on vaccines by looking at them purely as vaccines. That’s exactly what we have been courageously doing. And if he is capable of looking at vaccines as just vaccines, why not just take the American vaccines? Why should patriotism come in if he practised what he preached?

We received Sinovac in February. If we had been afraid of trade sanctions or the kind of boycott which Xiaoqi had suggested and that we afford to face, we would have meekly approved Sinovac and used it straight away. I’m proud that we didn’t. The dead silence from other Chinese netizens to Xiaoqi’s video is also mind-boggling. If a fellow Singaporean had made a racist or insensitive remark on social media, you can count on other Singaporeans to call him/her out. The silence from other Chinese netizens can mean several things. They may agree with him – that Singaporeans are a bunch of fools. The fact that we dare to treat Sinovac with so little “respect” (faith and deference) shows that we fail to recognise China’s greatness and choose to lean against a superpower in decline instead of an upcoming one.

He is a modern day 义和团/红卫兵. These are faith-driven zombies who can’t be reasoned with. It may surprise some people who think highly of China but Xiaoqi could be regarded as hero for challenging our foreign policies and threatening us with labour shortage. Remember 2007 when the late Taiwanese president Lee Teng Hui was visiting Japan, a man from China threw a bottle at him. The attacker was released without charges and for his act of hooliganism, he returned to a hero’s welcome in China. I won’t be at all surprised if the same honour is now being bestowed upon Xiaoqi. Even if we had chosen a sesame instead of a watermelon, does Xiaoqi think that we’re really that stupid? Maybe we just don’t share his values?

_DSC3305 -- Terrex AFV

Back when we insisted on caning Micheal Fay, there was a lot of rhetoric from America. Determined not to be bullied by America, we went ahead and meted out the sentence. More rhetoric, but America took no retaliatory action against Singapore. In contrast, our Terrex were swiftly detained in Hong Kong after the ruling on Scarborough Shoal against China made by the Permanent Court of Arbitration (which has an office in Singapore). While China is a member of the PCA, there is absolutely no assurance that they would abide by any ruling not in their favour! This is one difference between watermelon and sesame which Xiaoqi seems totally ignorant of.

Having said that, Xiaoqi is absolutely correct to infer that we are overly dependent on foreign workers like him and without them, Singapore can’t be as prosperous at the top as she is now. But 90% of us are nowhere near the top. Some may not even aspire to be there if it means sacrificing our dignity and submitting to bullies and hegemony. Nevertheless, fighting corruption in China simply means arresting a bunch of corrupt officials and replacing them with another bunch of corrupt officials. Xiaoqi and his gang may not be as indispensable as they think they are.

A classic statement made by a China woman on a dating show in China: “宁愿坐在宝马车里哭,也不愿坐在单车上 被人笑”. Better to marry someone rich and abusive than someone poor but nice. Do we share the same values? I can’t speak for Singapore’s property tycoons eager to see their mansions being snapped up by China’s tycoons, but I certainly do not.

Brainwashed folks like Xiaoqi will just keep blowing his trumpet and ignoring the facts. Being a well-read person with access to both China’s 大外宣 and the uncensored world, I know for a fact (even though I seldom agree with our government) that our vaccine policies are purely scientific. It all boils down to the science which is unfortunately impotent against the apocryphal perception that China is always underrated by the West. If you were to ask me whether Sinovac is safe, I would say that it probably is. But if you want me to guarantee that it’s safe, I would be extremely hesitant. China may be able to give you their guarantee, but history tells us that when something happens, they are much better at covering up the news and silencing whistle blowers than actually compensating victims. Those who bring up the issues are accused of 唯恐天下不乱.

Unfortunately, Xiaoqi’s vaccine chauvinism has infected many of our own people. This is one epidemic which cannot be curbed with a vaccine. The brainwashed Singaporeans who think that 中国的最好 are probably just as difficult to counsel as their counterparts in China due to their racial/cultural bias (not to mention readily available CCP propaganda on social media). Below is a screenshot of an official media report quoting Prof Gao Fu, head of China’s CDC, saying that China-made vaccines are currently less effective than mRNA vaccines. The good prof was immediately forced to retract his statement.

There has been a conspicuous spike in the number of videos educating us on vaccination and encouraging us to get it ASAP. The actual workings of mRNA vaccines are also explained to assure the public that it’s not a devious act of mind/body control by Western imperialists. All this is getting a bit awkward (seeing Dr Leong Hoe Nam’s face all the time) but necessary. That’s because 敌在暗,我在明。It’s not a fair fight. They block and censor all major news channels and social media from 1.3 billion people, some 18.47% of the world. We do nothing to prevent CGTN, China Daily, Sina, Weibo from spreading embellished information to the rest of the world.

It’s quite harmless when only our 傻逼 are duped into embracing the superiority of the proudest and loudest vaccine without understanding that our policies vis-a-vis vaccines are based on science and not politics. Yet true to form, all the 小战狼 react to “unequal” treatment like a vindictive spurned lover. It gets really worrying when even our medical profession starts subscribing to CCP propaganda, but what can we do? It would hypocritical to block access to all that pompous rhetoric and propaganda, but in an age of TikTok and one-liners, the battle to win over the shallow majority with boring facts and reason will be an uphill struggle.

© Chan Joon Yee


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Influencers & Foolish Followers – Kiara Kitty

So what’s new? Influencer and live-streamer Kiara Kitty has just made a police report, accusing someone of making a fake audio recording of an “imposter” confessing to pulling love scams on gullible men and to avoid having sex with one of them, the alleged imposter even audaciously claimed that she has been raped by her own father! In response to this widely circulated “fake video”, Kiara Kitty had just made a police report against the imposter. She added that “I am often misunderstood but I give no fuck, those who are real will stay.” I wonder what she means by “real”.

OK, who is Kiara Kitty? A sweet and innocent XMM? Apparently not. Below are some of her recent Instagram pictures, all publicly available at @kiaraakitty. While beauty is in the eyes of the beholder and what you see may not be what you get, these images (enhanced or otherwise), do look like they have what it takes to bait 120k followers; and that’s how many followers she has on Instagram. Also, she had 29.1k followers on Twitter (last tweet 3 weeks ago). Who would want to follow a writer, adventurer and homecook like me?

Even her abandoned Facebook page has 38,541 followers. She also has a YouTube channel with some 33.3k followers, not particularly impressive, but miles ahead of me. Of course, photos are easier to edit and manipulate than videos. We can peel away that layer of enhancement and check out a more authentic Kiara Kitty in the YouTube video below. Yep, another subcerebral presentation with the equally influential Jade Rasif. What were they talking about? Yes, sex and guys with big dicks and hearts. Meanwhile, the folks at AWARE are fighting for the insensitive men in this country to change their … mindsets.

I’ve always been curious how Jade Rasif could be a mum who aspires to quit showbiz and go into healthcare could still have time for trivia like this. Sadly but not surprisingly, she is rather scant on details, even on the “boring mum stuff”. I don’t have time to go through all the videos, but I’m sure you won’t be surprised to know that I’m not a follower and all this information comes from last minute research and I’ll only highlight some “indicative” material like the video below. Sorry, YouTube doesn’t allow embedding. It’s adults only. If you don’t want to watch it, it’s a live-streamed pool party with lot’s of raunchy antics and responses to lewd questions and remarks. They collected $232.75 at the end of this video (with 12 hours to go). I’m not sure what the final amount was, but Kiara Kitty claimed that she paid $1000.

A bit like Rebecca Chen’s Siew Lup, this is another example of “lame porn” that is neither here nor there. Siew Lup is a horror flick that only goes half as far as some HK Cat 3 movie of the 1980s. I don’t know how many guys would drool over this pool party video and gladly open their wallets, but suffice to say that there are far more titillating stuff out there. Of course, I understand that this is Singapore and there is a limit to how far the girls can go and this is not to say that I have anything against tasteful sensuality. It’s just that if you can’t go all the way, why not just do something more meaningful?

Now let’s get to the YouTube “video” (actually an audio recording of a phone conversation) between Kiara Kitty and some foreign guy. Without her face shown in the actual conversation, Kiara Kitty can deny that it’s her. The whole rationale of making the police report is to stop the “video” from going viral. I’m not sure if it’s going to be removed, but I’m sure that unlike Leong Sze Hian, I won’t get sued just for sharing it.

I don’t know Kiara Kitty, have not met her and I have never even had a phone conversation with her. I can’t tell you that I recognise her voice and I won’t know if it’s an imposter trying to defame her. It’s tough not to take notice and I would be glad to write her story if she decides to confess.

Interestingly, we hear about a case in which she got suckered into being used by a loser (paying for his FB marketing and so on) and another a few cases in which she managed to get back by tricking and manipulating gullible, diffident nerds into giving her money. It reminds me of one of the stories in my book, Spellbound in Chiangmai. It also reminds me of a tattoo model I’ve once worked with. While I knew that she was happily married (with no children), she adopted the totally fictional persona of a single mother who was constantly abused by one boyfriend after another. The result? She had hordes of sympathising followers who sent her presents and money to console her.

Real stories of fake suffering like the letters from Thai bargirls compiled in Hello My Big Big Honey date back to the 1980s (before some of our influencers were born). Typed or hand-written by ghostwriters, letters about sick mothers, dead buffaloes and imprisoned brothers, no money for school fees etc successfully solicited funds from gullible Farang men who fell in love in Thailand. Interestingly, almost 40 years down the road, a high tech, wide-reaching version of this “sob story scam” has taken over not just in Thailand but apparently in Singapore as well. Personally, I have more respect for people who charge a fee for their services than those who keep an open relationship to cast an illusion of romance and milk their clients for more.

While we can’t say for sure if Kiara Kitty had been a scammer, knowing what it takes to be an influencer here (and how broke some of them are in reality in spite of all that flaunting), it is only too tempting to harness social media to haul in the gullible, emotionally vulnerable folks. There are certainly more than a few of them among the tens of thousands of pathetically bored (boring) guys. Just another facet of these prosperous yet tragic times.

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What Covid Phase Are We In Now?

<h2>What Covid Phase Are We In Now?</h2>

First of all, my heartiest congratulations to Mr Leong Sze Hian for successfully raising the full amount in damages awarded to our PM in the defamation suit. Graphics courtesy of Dr Ang Yong Guan. But as some of us were celebrating, Mr Leong had also drawn some flak from both sides of the fence. Naturally, the PLPs will say that he should have used his own money, but even some of the folks who had been against this bullying said that Mr Leong should have made up for the shortfall with his own money since he’s not exactly an poor man. I disagree with this argument.

May be an image of text that says "Leong Sze Hian's crowd funding 2021 262,327 258,117 258, 250,405 244,956 239,736 233,431 225,780 218,573 211,115 213,792 206,044 203,063 198,032 65,032 70,063 73,044 78,115 80,792 85,573 111,956 117 106,736 106 100,431 129,327 125,117 64,295 291 56,283 51,212 48,535 43,754 36,547 28,896 17,371 22,591 11,922 4,210 11/05 12/05 13/05 13/05 13/05 13/05 13/05 14/05 14/05 15/05 15/05 15/05 15/05 11PM 11PM 8AM 1.30PM 4PM 6PM 11PM 1PM 7PM 8AM 1PM 7PM 9.38PM 1st & 2nd CF 2nd CF Shortfall"

Why? Because this would have dulled the impact of the crowdfunding. The message from the people is stronger if the entire amount is raised from people who don’t know Mr Leong with each contributing just $50.The impact would be even stronger if each contribution had been just $2. This means that more than a few people are irked by the outcome of the legal process. The numbers speak for themselves. They demonstrate the strength of the protest against the bullying of people who have questions and opinions.

The deadline for the settlement of legal costs and disbursements was sent out with just a few days’ notice. It was probably calculated based on the observation that Mr Leong’s crowdfunding plan might have run out of steam. If Mr Leong Sze Hian had paid for the shortfall himself, he would have missed the golden opportunity to show to the world (not just Singapore) how this devious plan has backfired.

Next, the latest (and worrying) Covid situation here. MOH reported that we have 409 imported cases (with 271 from South Asia) in last 28 days. It’s not mentioned how many people we actually imported. On Saturday, 15 May 2021, MOH sent out a strangely worded announcement on FB. They didn’t appear to be reporting. They are also “explaining” why it’s not the government’s fault for importing a dangerous new variant from India. It’s happening everywhere.

Yao mo gao chor ah? The virus breached our safety measures? You can say that the 8,890 km land border between US and Canada is porous. You can even say that the 3,145 km border between the US and Mexico is porous, but how many Mas Selamats managed to sneak in and out of Singapore undetected? Our borders are not that porous. They’re deliberately open to folks travelling from high risk countries while the rest of us have forgotten where we put our passports.

Next, let’s say Kim Huat’s report card is a sea of red. Why? Because he has been playing video games when he ought to be studying. He explained “Ah Hock also failed so many subjects what.” Does it mean that playing video games has nothing to do with Kim Huat’s poor results? Whether Ah Hock played video games or not is immaterial. The fact that Covid is seeing resurgence in other countries does not mean that our folks didn’t make any mistakes at immigration. As usual, we have pathetic academics who play apologist for our porous … correction, leaky borders.

Strangely, all this sounds awfully like Calvin Cheng and for a moment, I even thought that he might have just become the spokesman for MOH. The Indian variant of Covid was first discovered in October last year. As early as March this year, cases have been exploding in India. If mediocre folks like us can get worried and would have ordered our own doors shut to travellers from high risk countries, why is it that our ministries can’t do that?

Earlier on, I have crossed swords with pathetic academics who tried to defend the continued import of travellers from India and those on transit from soon-to-be-affected neighbouring countries. Like politicians, they conveniently twist this into a racial/xenophobic argument. And that, I fear, could happen in Parliament when it’s brought up for discussion. Can the spectators stay focused and not be hoodwinked? Before GE2020, Zaobao journalist Han Yong Mei had tried to defend the Covid election by saying that it’s rare that we get a chance to elect our leaders at a time when they can show how well they manage a pandemic. True indeed, though not in the way Ms Han would have us believe.

With the election results being somewhat “disappointing” (to the PLPs), Ms Han wrote another article saying that it showed that people were more concerned about democracy than the pandemic. Would people have voted differently if the elections were held on schedule, or a little delayed and not early? Seriously, I’m not optimistic. You may see folks complain a lot, but at the voting booth, there are “other concerns”.

Then, there was also this lame excuse about delay in the construction of BTO projects as a major concern. I’m surprised that it’s still being brought up by the usual apologists. If everybody with flu symptoms were to see the doctor and get 3 days’ MC pending swab test result, then every conceivable sector is going to be delayed. Even wedding plans have to be put on hold now. Still worried about not getting BTO flats on time? That’s like being waist-deep in water and worrying about your feet getting wet.

Well, what’s done cannot be undone and here we go again. I have attached the new Covid Measures in two simple diagrams courtesy of CNA.

Infographic Singapore enhances COVID-19 rules May 14, group size down to 2
Infographic COVID-19 measures Singapore malls and weddings and funerals May 14

What is this going to mean for businesses? I really don’t know. What I do know, is that the small businesses that had gone bust last year have all been sacrificed in vain. Meanwhile, hang in there, folks. If you have nothing to do at home, do pick a read you may like at Dewdrop Books. I’m not crowdfunding, but if so much “favouritism” has been shown towards foreigners, certainly you can afford to support a local writer.

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The Truths In Fake News & Noses

The Truths In Fake News & Noses

Last night, I had a dream. I dreamed that I was in geography class and the teacher Miss Wu Zetian asked me how America got to be colonised by the Europeans. I said that Christopher Columbus sailed westwards from Spain in 1493 and discovered America.

“Wrong! Fake news!” Miss Wu Zetian shrieked. “Columbus set sail from Castile in 1492. He did not discover America. It was the great Chinese admiral Zheng He who discovered America and don’t you forget that.”

Yao mo gao chor ah? Just because I got the year wrong and Columbus didn’t discover America? Hold that thought for a while. Let’s discuss a prettier topic first.

26 year old Malaysian woman Tan Shu Min performed aesthetic procedures at hotels in Singapore but she was not registered with the Singapore Medical Council and not licensed to perform these procedures which included botox injections and nose thread lift.

Malaysia Tan Shu Min advertised and performed illegal cosmetic procedures targeting customers in Singapore. (SCREENSHOT: Carousell)
Photoshopped profile pic of Tan Shu Min “aesthetician”

On 6 May 2021, she pleaded guilty to one count of performing a nose threadlift procedure on the bridge of the nose of a woman at a Singapore hotel on 27 January 2020. Apart from contravention of the Medical Registration Act, Tan also pleaded guilty to one count of importing into Singapore, 3 syringes containing lidocaine – an anaesthetic listed in the Schedule to the Poisons Act – on 25 May 2019. In addition, she admitted to 3 counts under the Health Products Act for bringing into Singapore medical devices and products without an importer’s licence.

The real Tan Shu Min

Apparently, Miss Tan Shu Min was busted when a dissatisfied customer complained to the authorities. Before the judge and the real cameras without digital manipulation, the real Tan Shu Min emerges. One fake doctor with a fake profile pic exposed. Of course, apart from fake doctors and fake profile pics, we also have fake news – like Christopher Columbus sailing off and running aground prematurely in America in 1493 (it’s supposed to be 1492). But of course, any smart student should know that getting the date wrong does not disprove the fact that Columbus did discover America (even though he thought it’s India).

Chances of making such mistakes are much slimmer these days. You’re most unlikely to get India and America mixed up. And when the Indian variants of Covid-19 made their way to our shores, you would also know it’s not from some American “Indian”. These naughty little bugs, mutants of the original Wuhan virus, are causing an outbreak of new cases in the peaceful and well-behaved community here. Yesterday (8 May 2021), there were 7 community cases. 2 were in the PSA cluster and already quarantined. Out of the other 5, 3 are workers at Changi Airport! Hold that thought for a while, let’s see POFMA in action.

The Ministry of Transport (MOT) on 7 May 2021, invoked Singapore’s fake news law in response to a video circulating on social media showing a large group of South Asian travellers purportedly arriving at Changi Airport despite travel restrictions.

A correction direction has been issued to the “Singapore Incidents” pages on Facebook and Instagram, which had both posted the “false video”, said MOT in a statement.

These videos, put up on May 5, contained a watermark stating the date of the clip as May 5 and the location as Changi Airport. MOT noted that a clock in the video indicated the time as 2.53pm – and that there were no flights from India, Bangladesh, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka arriving at Changi Airport between 8am and 3.30pm on May 5 2021.

“While there are still passenger flights arriving in Singapore from South Asia, these flights carry primarily returning Singapore citizens and permanent residents; cargo; or fly in empty to pick up passengers in Singapore who are returning to South Asia,” said MOT. “For example, on May 5, there were five passenger flights arriving in Singapore from South Asia, carrying a total of 50 passengers, all of whom were returning Singapore citizens or permanent residents.”

Hmm… “returning”? I have quite a number of friends who were travelling or working overseas before the announcement of CB last year. When they got the news of an impending lockdown, they took the earliest flight home. By the middle of last year, practically every one of them was back in Singapore. A handful of those who had to remain are still overseas. This raises a few questions about the large numbers of returning Singapore citizens or permanent residents from India. I wonder if they had missed the flight when we shut our borders last year or they have somehow decided to shuttle a few times between Singapore and India the moment we opened up.

I won’t put the link here, but I’m sure you can find that video somewhere out there. According to the airport authorities, the video is believed to have been taken more than a month ago. Does that worry you less? The surge in Covid cases in India happened in early March, probably before the video was taken. That would have been the time I would get very concerned about imported cases, but it seems that the folks in charge have other concerns.

Anyway, the MOT has decided that the video is fake news. The date is wrong, so the whole video is inadmissible. Shouldn’t that answer Mr Clavin Cheng’s question about why people are pointing fingers at the entire establishment because of one arrogant ex-general taking umbrage?

Whether it’s taking umbrage, suing people who are a thorn in the side or calling out a wrongly dated video as fake news, it’s all under the same umbrella of the establishment in which we must have absolute trust. Meanwhile, there is no need to worry about the Indian variant. The flights coming in are only catering to “returning” citizens and PRs and they have to serve their SHN. Just follow the rules. 听党的话. These people can have 3 masters degrees. We are not their equals.

If there’s still a surge in cases caused by the Indian variant, it must be our fault for holding private karaoke sessions with Vietnamese ladies. It must be our fault because of all the “sovereigns” who refused to wear masks in public. It must be our fault because we have been going to the airport to makan and jalan jalan. That’s the cause for this troublesome Indian variant outbreak. That video is fake news. And it was Zheng He who discovered America because Miss Wu Zetian said so.

The authorities described the occurrence of eight Covid-19 cases at Changi Airport over the last 10 days as “worrying”. “While 92 per cent of frontline aviation workers have been vaccinated, the risk of infection remains,” CAAS and CAG said.

© Chan Joon Yee


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Taking Umbrage & Thorn In The Side

Taking umbrage & Thorn in the side

So what’s new? SPH CEO Ng Yat Chung is in the news. Or did news about his outburst overshadow the details of the press conference held specifically to explain the restructuring of Singapore Press Holdings? I shall not repeat the facts which are explained in great detail here.

The reporter at CNA digital media asked whether there would be changes to the media business (since it’s no longer for profit) to emphasise on editorial integrity over advertiser interest. Is that a valid question? Certainly. The next part sounds a little incomplete. What “initiatives” were she referring to? What is obvious in her second question, is that she was seeking accountability on behalf of shareholders and interested members of the public. And that really did it for Mr Ng. Check it out.

The chairman had spoken about changes. Isn’t it fair to ask what these changes might be? Isn’t it fair to ask if one of these changes might include not letting advertiser interest weigh in on editorial integrity? But the yao mo gao chor moment for me was not the umbrage moment but when he was calling a journalist out for daring to question SPH titles for for for … “conceding” (was that word edited out from in the video?). Then he said, “even where you come from, you concede, right?”

Alas, CNA reporter didn’t manage to point out where the bulk of the conceding has been taking place. Suddenly, “umbrage” became a trending word. Netizens became obsessed with it, more out of amusement than disgust of course.

The word “umbrage” is not derived from the English word “rage”. Remember in Physics we learned about umbra, penumbra and antumbra as parts of a shadow? In Latin, umbra refers to shadow. In Physics, it refers to the darkest part of a shadow, as observed from an area experiencing a total eclipse.When someone takes umbrage at something or someone, it means that he takes offence or a “dim view”. An easy way to remember where umbrage comes from would be to visualise the dark, shadowy face of a certain general. 😂

So where did this non-gentleman come from. Taking umbrage at someone is actually a more abstract way of saying that he’s been a thorn in the side. Same organisation, same culture. Earlier, Mr Leong Sze Hian has been sued and ordered to pay $133,000 to our Prime Minister for sharing the same controversial post shared by 9097 others. Legal costs amounted to another $130,000. Why specifically Mr Leong?

Well, that’s because he has been described as a thorn in the side. In other words, his frequent criticisms of the government’s policies have caused it to take umbrage and subsequently, legal action. We live in a terribly unequal society. And as Mr Ng put it, don’t you dare cross the line. Mr Ng’s outburst is a warning sign. Mr Leong’s predicament is the result of not heeding that warning. Not surprisingly, PLPs like Mr Calvin Cheng doesn’t see that.

Screenshot_2021-05-09-14-34-33-13.jpg

Why do people direct their anger to the establishment as a whole? Is it that difficult to understand? Taking “umbrage” and “thorn in the side” come from the same “family” and the same culture. The two phrases are like the same song of authoritarianism sung in a different key. It takes a lot of wilful blindness to not see the connection. Nevertheless, not all PLPs act the same way. I find it amusing that some PLPs are misusing the word “umbrage” by turning it back on calm and composed netizens who are really just mocking some boorish braggart. Check this nonsense out.

Screenshot_2021-05-08-07-49-46-22.jpg

Frankly, I don’t think the CNA reporter had gone far enough. Maybe she wouldn’t dare. The issue which I personally take with this new arrangement at SPH, is that Government (=public) funding for SPH publications would mean that I no longer have a choice not to pay for newsPAPers. Without a need to achieve distribution targets and readership, do our newsPAPers even need to bother with “political correctness”?

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B1617 Indian Variant Clusters?

Just as we thought that the end of the pandemic was in sight and it would be safe to travel, infection clusters emerged in Singapore. Are we now seeing B1617 Indian variant clusters in our midst? Is our vaccination exercise going to be futile?

India is scrambling for oxygen and hospital beds, with over 300,000 new infections and 3,600 deaths every day, but we saw it coming. The surge started in March 2021. From there, it climbed steadily to reach its current state of devastation. The variant strain of SARS-CoV-2 found in India is called a “double mutant”, but it actually carries 13 mutations. The official name of this variant is B1617 and so far, I’ve not heard anyone being called a racist for using the common name “Indian variant”.

Anyway, researchers are figuring out the impact that this new variant may have on the pandemic. It’s possible that certain “escape mutations” may render the virus immune to antibodies acquired through vaccination. Bearing these things in mind, we tread with extreme caution. As early as April 2021, Hong Kong had banned flights from India, Pakistan and the Philippines.

As early as 19 April, Hong Kong has banned flights from India and Pakistan.

Singapore followed suit about a week later. The move to bar all long-term pass holders and short-term visitors who have travelled to India within the last 14 days from entering or transiting through Singapore took effect from 11.59pm on April 23 2021. He said that the stay-home notice (SHN) period was not “100 per cent foolproof”, noting that any leaks among newly arrived Indian workers could possibly introduce new strains into dormitories and result in new clusters. But before we give Mr Ong a pat on the back, his reply to queries of people escape the ban by “transiting” in a country before flying to Singapore was most mind-boggling.

He said: “If your policy is to target risk, then for someone from a high-risk country to move to a lower-risk country, stay there for some time, and after that remain non-Covid positive… and then come to Singapore, actually, you have lowered the risk tremendously in that process.”

Yao mo gao chor ah?

Meanwhile, our incoming health minister reassures us that travellers who fly in from the “transit” countries assume a lower risk!

And as if that’s not “encouraging” enough to the flanking folks, PLP Calvin Cheng had to show these covidiots the loophole. What follows are massive surges in neighbouring countries like Sri Lanka and Nepal. I would hate to “credit” Calvin Cheng with the disaster, but the fact that he had the nerve to suggest it shows that he is even worse than the folks who refuse to cooperate with the safety measures.

In that same week, Thailand reported 2,438 new coronavirus cases and 11 new deaths due to B1617. They were still allowing arrivals from neighbouring countries. That’s a mistake we can all learn from.

And there is no shortage of supporters for delayed action in closing the loophole. One university professor, apparently unaware of the ban on arrivals from India, started waxing lyrical about how we should not discriminate. A colleague who is a part time lecturer warned that our construction projects are going to be delayed! Yao mo gao chor ah? But that’s what’s making important decisions so difficult. You would have thought that Covid taught us to value health over riches, make sacrifices for the sake of safety; to look and value beyond what is tangible. People talked about how they regret not spending more time with their friends and family; about how they realise what really matters in our lives and then all of a sudden, we’re back to dollars, cents and the economy.

May be an image of text that says "Calvin Cheng ・11h Restrict more domestic activities. But leave borders open. It's more important to keep us economically alive than for Singaporeans to have more social activities. Like 206"

Wonderful advice from Calvin Cheng. Hotels in Kathmandu were packed with travellers on transit to other countries that have banned them. Look what happened to Nepal. As early as 29 April 2021, Hong Kong had closed the loophole, banning flights from Nepal as well.

May be an image of text that says "Coronavirus disease Nepal Overview Statistics Symptoms Pr Daily change From JHU CSSE COVID-19 Data Last updated: 2 days ago New cases Nepal All time 6,000 23 Jan 2021 New cases: 232 7-day avg: 303 4,000 2,000 Jul New cases 3 Oct 7-day average 5 Jan Apr"

OK, we saw the huge surge in India, apparently cause by variant B1617. According to the BBC: “Scientists believe existing vaccines will help control the variant when it comes to preventing severe disease. Some variants will inevitably escape the current vaccines.” We are looking at a new strain which may render our vaccination exercise futile. Our minister recognised that SHN is not 100% effective. We saw the surge in neighbouring Nepal and Sri Lanka as desperate travellers transit there to circumvent the ban. We saw how things almost went out of control in Thailand. We saw how Hong Kong closed the Nepal loophole. What did we do?

On 29 April 2021, Hong Kong further closed the loop by banning flights from possible “transit” countries.

We banned arrivals from India but kept the transit loophole open, announcing on 30 April that the loophole would only be closed on 2 May 2021. What happened next? I’m not here to repeat everything that can be found in media reports. This blog post attempts to rationalise actions or inactions which may have led to the current situation here in Singapore. Maybe it’s just a coincidence. Maybe no one is to blame, but let’s take a look starting from the first sign of trouble on 28 April 2021. There were 3 community cases. Of the 3 cases in the community, one was a 46-year-old Filipino woman deployed at Ward 9D, a general ward. One was a construction project manager from Nepal and one was an ICA officer.

Why do I say first sign of trouble even though there were community cases before that? Because there is a nurse being infected and we are looking at a hospital cluster. True enough, there were 16 cases reported the very next day with 9 in the hospital cluster. Still no tell-tale signs of a serious outbreak.

On April 28, there were 23 new coronavirus cases confirmed, taking Singapore’s total to 61,086. They included 3 community cases and no new cases from migrant workers’ dormitories, said the Ministry of Health (MOH). The remaining 20 were imported cases who had been placed on stay-home notice or isolated upon arrival in Singapore. There were 19 imported cases. As you can see, there is no mention of where the imported cases came from.

28 April 2021, 16 new community cases

Then on 30 April 2021, we have 2 cases who had arrived here from India and other hospital staff, making a total of 9 cases. Thanks to TOC, we finally get a breakdown of “imported cases”. Singapore recorded a total of 212 COVID-cases, of which 71 infections involved those who arrived directly from India. This translates to 33.5 percent of the country’s cases for the past week.

On 2 May 2021 alone, the Ministry of Health (MOH) announced that there were 25 imported cases of COVID-19. They have all been placed on Stay-Home Notice or isolated upon arrival in Singapore.

Of the 25 imported cases, 12 were those who flew directly from India:

  • Singapore Citizen – 2
  • Permanent Resident – 8
  • Work Pass Holder – 2

However, five were Indian nationals who flew from Nepal:

  • Dependant’s Pass Holder – 4
  • Work Pass Holder – 1

This means that the total number of travellers linked to India arriving in Singapore on a single day is 17 out of 25 infected cases. When are we going to stop importing?

It’s too late to say what should have been done. Suffice to say that if swift and preemptive action had been taken to guard our borders, then the risk of infection to the general population and especially to healthcare workers would be greatly reduced. There is no use pouring tribute while at the same time try to sanitise imported cases. The problem of imported cases, like crowded dormitories was just waiting to explode. From the cases that “initially tested negative”, we should not have taken so much risk.

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Clueless In Singapore

Yao mo gao chor ah? The only consolation we have for the fact that so many single and dateless Singaporeans out there are so clueless, is that the experts who advise them are equally clueless. Unless you’re among the clueless yourself, the following signboards giving advise to courting couples at the Serangoon end of Punggol Waterway (Sunrise Bridge) will make you cringe. I wonder what you’ll get if you scan the QR code. Live chat support?

IMG20210411181739

Well, all I can say is, these experts really know how to ruin a date. I’m not talking about the “purposeful” kind of dates where the courtship ritual is just a formality. The wedding date has already been set and the meeting is set to avoid surprises on the big date. I know it’s rather mean to call these unions “marriages of convenience”, but the inconvenient truth is, that’s pretty much what they are.

For single men and women in their 40s who are patriotically responding to a national (population) crisis, these tips may help prevent a silent date (not the type that romantics who are good at communicating with their eyes deliberately go on once in a while). For a nerdy guy trying to impress a bubbly girl, it’s going to do quite the opposite. What are you grateful for? I’m grateful for the LRT at Riviera that can get me out of here, you clueless moron.

IMG20210411181727

What should you say then? You should tell interesting stories. You should say funny things to make her laugh, like the East Coast Plan and then the short runway. Some people would probably want to kick themselves in the butt. Could they have voted for Nicole Seah, supporting her in both action and spirit if they had not been afraid of disrupting the succession plan which has just been officially shelved?

Of course, there was a deafening buzz following the announcement. Singaporeans have been making almost as much fun of him as the cotton sheep guy, but many (like those at East Coast) did not think they have any more power to decide who becomes the President as they have in deciding who becomes the Prime Minister. Suddenly, East Coast folks realised that it wouldn’t have mattered that much if they had voted for Nicole Seah.

But of course, Mr Heng has his “sympathisers” and other PLPs (pathetic lightning pleasers/pursuers), especially in academia. A certain professor from NUS brought up a 2018 newsPAPer article and wrote a touching piece in support of the departing PM contender.

His own comments starts with “DPM is a v decent man” and I don’t disagree with that. I’m not sure whether Prof Ben Leong is blaming the top leadership for not letting 4G leaders take over or non-PLP Singaporeans for being superficial, petty and having a sense of humour, amplifying and exaggerating his blunders while overlooking his less glamourous but far more important contributions.

But quoting the incident at the MPS where he insisted on doing what’s right and not bend over backwards for the sake of one vote sounded as condescending as the dating advice at Punggol Waterway. Such “decency” is quite basic and commonplace within the general population. It’s not exclusive among the elite. Frankly, nobody would expect or have any respect for a minister who panders to folks who make unreasonable demands just to win votes. Is Prof Ben Leong implying that people who rejoice at DPM Heng’s departure are arrogant and unreasonable folks who behave like that girl’s mother? Perhaps, but that’s not the point.

The point is, why would DPM Heng even need to worry about losing votes by displeasing one or even hundreds of voters? DPM Heng’s party has the equivalent of nuclear weapons in their electioneering arsenal compared to the opposition’s Stone Age clubs and axes. The horrible reality is such that the woman who didn’t have her unreasonable request fulfilled by DPM Heng may still vote for him if she’s concerned about her estate’s upgrading being delayed.

Prof Leong laments that we are losing a valuable member of the 4G leadership, but if you take Sumiko Tan’s article apart and examine other issues not mentioned including CECA, then DPM Heng may not be as indispensable as what the good prof and other PLPs might suggest.

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Xinjiang Cotton

I where(sic) Xinjiang Cotton – Jordan Chan

Last year while still on Donald Trump’s watch, the US imposed sanctions and cotton import restrictions on suppliers controlled by the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps (XPCC) – a paramilitary production entity which produces a third of Xinjiang’s cotton. The reason? Human rights concerns. And it’s not just the XPCC. With advice from the BCI (Better Cotton Initiative), the Trump’ government had plans to expand import restrictions to cover all Xinjiang cotton, not just that produced by XPCC regions. These actions were triggered by a report which states that at least 570,000 persons in Xinjiang had been coerced into cotton-picking operations through the government’s forced labour training and transfer scheme. Many of those “recruited” into the industry are former inmates at reeducation camps. After being snatched off the streets and rehabilitated, they are forcibly redeployed as cotton pickers earning only $0.85 an hour! Such measures are touted as moves to alleviate poverty, but the devil is in the details which are not readily accessible to Sinophiles in an age of 16-second Tik Tok videos.

IMG_20210330_084829
Kashgar, Xinjiang

I took the above picture in Kashgar, Xinjiang. Even before the 1970s, the Muslim traders in Xinjiang had been very enterprising. They could be selling watermelons off the back of a mule cart on the streets of Urumqi. They could also be artisans and craftsmen, selling handmade ornaments from makeshift stalls. Bucket shops and random businesses may not look as sanitary as modern Chinese malls, but they were always vibrant and colourful. While most Chinese people have been encouraged to be street vendors in the wake of the pandemic, many Xinjiang street vendors and artists who have been reeducated, are now redeployed against their will to work for state-owned enterprises.

Back in October 2020, the BCI announced that it had suspended activities in Xinjiang as well as licensing of the region’s cotton, citing allegations and “increasing risks” of supporting forced labour. A little background information on the BCI.

Wikipedia:

The Better Cotton Initiative (BCI) is a non-profit, multistakeholder governance group that promotes better standards in cotton farming and practices across 21 countries. As of 2017, Better Cotton accounts for 14% of global cotton production. In the 2016-2017 cotton season, 1.3 million licensed BCI Farmers produced 3.3 million metric tonnes of Better Cotton lint, enabling a record-level of more sustainably produced cotton to enter the global supply chain.

Back then BCI member H&M also made a statement:

We do not work with any garment manufacturing factories located in Xinjiang Uyghur AR, and we do not source products from this region. We transparently disclose names and locations of manufacturing factories, mills and yarn producers in our public supplier list and will continue to do so and further accelerate this transparency for our global supply chain.

Beijing 2008 Summer Olympics Games Photos China

Nike, which has been involved in similar scandals (sweatshops) in the past (1970s), also ensured that its image is protected by releasing a statement:

Nike is committed to ethical and responsible manufacturing and we uphold international labor standards. We are concerned about reports of forced labor in, and connected to, the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR). Nike does not source products from the XUAR and we have confirmed with our contract suppliers that they are not using textiles or spun yarn from the region.

lost

There wasn’t must reaction from China last year; for obvious reasons. Few people expected the sanctions to take place after Joe Biden took over. They were wrong. The trigger for the most recent spat was pulled on 22 March 2021 when POTUS Joe Biden announced sanctions against two Chinese government officials over continued human rights abuses against the country’s minority Uyghur population. Instead of withdrawing Trump’s sanctions, Biden sought the support of other nations, coordinating with similar moves by the EU, UK, Canada and Japan.

Then, all hell broke loose.

On Friday, 26 March 2021, retaliation came fast and furious. In just 24 hours after the official “call to action”, H&M has been all but erased from China’s digital world. That means you can’t buy its tops and dresses on the biggest online retail platforms. You can’t even book a taxi or navigate with Baidu to its shops. Other online stores and companies had their websites blocked or their physical stores removed from digital maps. Companies targeted include Nike, Adidas, New Balance, Burberry, Puma, and Tommy Hilfiger. Of course, these stores are still there and most Chinese people still want to buy. The trouble is, would they dare to buy at risk of being called traitors by the “patriots”? Sensing a “misunderstanding” (which of course it isn’t), H&M released a statement to its Chinese customers.

I’m not sure if the folks at H&M and Nike read China correctly but China certainly didn’t read them correctly. H&M is a business and as a global business, these folks are naturally concerned about their image on the international stage. Rightly or wrongly, they believe that their consumers are principled and discerning individuals who expect them to be on the same page. Being politically correct attracts like-minded consumers, but do they seriously believe this is the trend in China going forward? If not, then they must be prepared to face a costly backlash.

As this wave of “patriotism” swept through the country, Chinese sportswear company Anta prudently announced that they would withdraw from the BCI and continue using Xinjiang cotton. Meanwhile, more than 40 celebrities from mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan responded to the call for patriotism and have cut their ties to fashion brands that object to the use of Xinjiang cotton.

To avoid being marked, Taiwanese actor Eddie Peng, Hong Kong singer Eason Chan and Chinese actress Dilraba Dilmurat, who is of Uighur ethnicity (but obviously not in touch with cotton pickers), have announced, through their agencies on Weibo, that they are severing ties with Adidas. Chinese actor Huang Xuan and Chinese actress Victoria Song have also ended their relationship with H&M, and Chinese actress Zhou Dongyu with Burberry. So “patriotic”, but I’m not sure if Jason Chan would be penalised for saying “I where Xinjiang Cotton”. Hmm, has anybody seen Nicky Wu? Yes, it’s a pathetic image all right.

Jordan Chan “Where” Xinjiang Cotton

It has turned out to be a high stakes battle. Who are these companies fighting for? Strangers in Xinjiang Province? Ask any pragmatic Chinese person and he is likely to laugh at the Westerners. Can China emerge victorious in this tussle? Judging from previous experience with boycotts, for instance, when South Korea’s Lotte chain was targeted in particular, Lotte stores vanished from China after the company got caught up in a diplomatic row between Beijing and Seoul. For many foreign brands, the lure of selling their stuff to China’s 1.4 billion and obtaining a good supply of cheap raw materials have been strong enough to drown out ethical concerns. Some have even surrendered their intellectual property rights, their principles and dignity for that magical 1.4 billion market. It would be naive for Biden and other leaders to expect China to acknowledge its mistakes, feel ashamed and correct them. They are far more likely to feel insulted and retaliate with all their might and fury.

Nevertheless, one cannot expect big names like H&M and Nike not to have done their homework and their risk assessment. How will this turn out? Only time can tell.

Humans are such enigmatic creatures. When atrocities are committed against other animals, they (regardless of ethnicity) are immediately outraged into boycotting shark’s fin, ivory and candles made from whale fat.

When atrocities are committed against other humans (albeit a different skin colour) the same folks who boycott shark’s fin and whale fat candles can turn a blind eye, deaf ear and/or go into doubting and denial mode. Some even support the perpetrators and counter boycott the boycotters.While some fanatics at Greenpeace would give their lives to save the earth, there are others who jump on and off the bandwagon depending on what’s fashionable or beneficial.

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Can We Count On You?

Can we count on you?

So what’s new? Names I’ve never heard before – like Joey Mendoza, Pauline India and Hugh Harrison were suddenly all over social media. They were dragged into the limelight when multiple apparently plagiarised versions of Count On Me Singapore (entitled We Can Achieve in the Indian version) were uploaded online sometime between July last year and January this year. The latest video of the song on YouTube, was uploaded in August last year.

While most Singaporeans are quite familiar with the song Count On Me Singapore which is sung during our National Day celebrations, the Indian version was attributed to an individual by the name of Joey Mendoza. Pauline Communications, India said that it had bought the rights to the song in question from Mendoza.

We would like to inform you that we had produced this song with the help of Mr. Joey Mendoza who sold the copyright of the lyrics and music to us, claiming he owned it,” Pauline Communications India said.

This came as a shock to many people. On our side, the song is known to be written and composed by Canadian musician Hugh Harrison. In the 1980s, Mr Harrison was working for the McCann-Erickson advertising agency when the then Ministry of Culture asked a number of big-name advertising agencies to come up with a campaign for the 25th anniversary of self-governance in 1984. Mr Harrison’s agency won the tender. Mr Harrison went on to write 3 National Day songs for us – Stand Up For Singapore, Count On Me Singapore and We Are Singapore.

In spite of Mr Harrison’s testimony, Joey Mendoza maintained that he wrote the song. He claimed that the original version of the song ‘We Can Achieve’ was first written at Bal Bhavan, Mumbai in 1983, and thereafter performed publicly on 1 May, 1983.

In 1999 Pauline (India) decided to produce the original version since there were many variants going across. Singapore released its national song ‘Count on Me Singapore’ in 1986… With due honour to Singapore, I was not aware of this song until two days ago.”

So what was Mendoza trying to say? We copied the 1983 song from him and released it in 1986? Frankly, songs like Count On Me Singapore, One People One Nation One Singapore etc give me goosebumps – it feels as if someone is scrubbing my brain with detergent. I have my own NDP to attend. But this time, it’s not about whether I like the song. I don’t enjoy going to Sentosa, but that does not mean that I would allow it to be taken away by foreigners, especially those who lie through their teeth with no feelings of guilt or shame. The devil is in the details.

One line of lyrics in the Indian version say: “We are told no dreams to hold that we can try for”. Whatever that means.

The original version should be: “We are told no dream’s too bold they we can’t try for”. So did we correct a meaningless sentence or did they fail to transcribe a sensible sentence from the audio? Mr Harrison is not going to take this lying down.

To all those who have made me aware of this situation regarding the illegal repackaging of Count on me Singapore as We Can Achieve by one Joey Mendoza in India, please be aware that I have written to both Joey and the executive of Pauline Communications in Mumbai requesting that certain actions be taken to address Mr Mendoza’s false claims to be the original creator of this song. I will let you know if and when I get a reply and how I intend to respond should corrective action not be forthcoming. Thank you all for your kind words and support. Sincerely, Hugh Harrison

And neither is Mendoza. He has countered Mr Harrison’s testimony by claiming that he has 250 orphans as living proof that the song was written by him (in 1983?) Can he produce any recording of it? Well, yes and no. Mendoza claimed that the song was only recorded on cassette tapes in 1999. Unfortunately, those tapes were “swept away” in the 2005 Mumbai floods. How (in)convenient. The orphanage where Mr Mendoza’s 250 orphans first sang the song in 1983 has not responded. Some of the YouTube videos of the Indian version have also been turned to “private”. It’s amazing that while YouTube flags cover versions of popular songs for copyright infringement, their algorithms seem to have missed out the Indian “cover”. Maybe if I change a few words in the cover version of a song, I might be able to avoid being flagged.

What about the authorities here? Their official statement was: “Count On Me Singapore is now owned by the Singapore government”. The Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth had originally said last week it was investigating potential copyright infringement before striking a softer tone, saying it was happy the song “struck a chord” with the people of India. They even made light of this blatant theft of intellectual property saying that imitation is the best form of flattery.

Yao mo gao chor ah? Even the creator who has sold the copyright to our government has decided to uphold his principles and integrity by challenging Mendoza. Netizens have likewise expressed their indignation. Why are our authorities turning the other cheek?

© Chan Joon Yee


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