Hong Kong-style protests could happen in Singapore, minister warns

SINGAPORE: Escalating violence between pro-democracy protesters and police had pushed Hong Kong to “breaking point”, Singapore’s Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing said, warning a similar situation could “easily happen” in his country if the government is complacent.

Speaking to reporters from his offices in the city-state on Monday, the trade minister said Singapore should heed the lessons from what has occurred in Hong Kong, especially while “Singapore’s relevance to the world is never a given”.

“Unless calm is restored, dialogue commences and constructive actions taken, there will be grave doubts about Hong Kong’s future and the sustainability of its current governance model,” local media reported him as saying.

“What has happened in Hong Kong can easily happen to Singapore if we are complacent or not careful.”

Tensions in Hong Kong have run high in recent days as pitched battles between police and protesters on Monday led to raging fires, tear gas and flaming vehicles.

A two-day siege at Hong Kong’s Polytechnic University has raised fears of a crackdown on hundreds of protesters who remain trapped on a campus surrounded by police.

Still, public demonstrations are rare in Singapore. Under restrictive laws, cause-related gatherings are illegal without a police permit and participants are subject to hefty fines.

There are also concerns a controversial “fake news” law that took effect in October could be used by authorities to clamp down on free speech.

Chan said political leaders should put the people’s interests ahead of those of the party, while governments should focus on long-term issues, not just “the here and now”.

“City-states that are unexceptional will also not last long in history,” he said, urging against the use of violence to resolve conflicts.

The comments come as Singapore is expected to announce elections, which must be held by April 2021 but are commonly called early. They are widely expected to be won by the ruling People’s Action Party, which has dominated Singapore’s politics for six decades.