The South China Morning Post publishes a rather pained letter from someone in Singapore who feels an earlier correspondent failed to take the Lion City seriously. Singapore is a tax-haven too, the writer essentially insists, even though it has higher taxes than Hong Kong and no Apple store. As it happens, Asia’s other city-state has no need to be whiny and defensive and insecure today. Mayhem in the Big Lychee over the weekend: the Financial Secretary stops a flying egg probably intended for boss CY Leung, and unhinged pro-Beijing protestor Chan Ching-sum tears a colonial flag in the street. Mayhem in Singapore: one dead, cops wounded and vehicles destroyed after hundreds of South Asians riot in Little India.
The reasons for Hong Kong’s relatively mild civil strife are all too well-known. Radicals resort to high-profile direct action like egg-hurling against the city’s Beijing-appointed administration out of frustration with what seems to be never-ending official incompetence and deafness. Much of the dissatisfaction has its roots in an inequitable division of resources and opportunities; specifically, a small minority profit immensely from an major influx of Mainland tourists at the expense of everyone else’s quality of life. Self-styled patriots with recent Mainland roots, incensed at the flawed Chinese-ness and treachery of many Hongkongers, counter anti-establishment demonstrations with contrived and emotional gestures of their own. The basic ‘contradictions’ are obvious and discussed incessantly, even if no-one wants to suggest serious solutions.
In Singapore, the government issues a stern request that citizens refrain from ‘speculating’ about the riot – the first in many citizens’ living memory. It appears the participants were migrant workers and the trouble started when a bus ran over a Bangladeshi. Tourist buses clogging up streets and stroppy Mainland Chinese bus drivers are big issues in the city. But even if those factors were not involved in this incident, the ‘speculation’ is bound to be about ‘influx of outsiders to profit the few’. It will also be about the apparent incompetence of the police – who had to resort to their Gurkha heavies – and by extension the highly face-conscious, supposedly infallible, one-party government.
The parallels between Hong Kong and Singapore are not exact; an equivalent riot in the Big Lychee would involve a mob of Filipino maids overturning police cars in Central. But there is a basic common thread: if you stuff cities full of newcomers and damage ordinary residents’ well-being enough, expect trouble.
On a lighter note, Satanists are demanding the right to erect a monument alongside the Ten Commandments outside the Oklahoma state capitol. I would be indifferent were it not for the grotesque bad taste of the design of the Christians’ sculpture. The lameness of the two-tablets-in-one concept; the pointless leafy bits to fill empty space; the silly scroll effect at the bottom; and, whatever Moses might think of the Stars of David down there, he would surely balk at the stars and stripes draped at the top – as, no doubt, would flag-appropriateness expert Chan Ching-sum. (At least they fixed the typos.) Whatever statue of a goat-headed monster the devil-worshippers want to install, it can only look nicer.