Chinese privilege in Singapore? 'Entirely baseless', says PM Lee

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Inter Racial Inter Religious Harmony Nite 2017. (PHOTO: Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth)
Inter Racial Inter Religious Harmony Nite 2017. (PHOTO: Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth)

SINGAPORE — The claim of Chinese privilege in Singapore is "entirely baseless", said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Sunday (29 August). 

Lee said in his Mandarin speech at the National Day Rally on Sunday evening that from the early years of its nationhood, Singapore’s leaders have stood firm on the over-arching policy of racial equality and treated all races equally. 

In this regard, Chinese Singaporeans made concessions for the greater good, such as by adopting English as Singapore’s lingua franca to put ethnic minorities more at ease. The Chinese community also greatly supported the "fundamental founding policy" of racial equality. 

"The use of English put those who spoke only Mandarin and dialects in a disadvantageous position. Therefore, it is entirely baseless to claim that there is ‘Chinese privilege’ in Singapore," said PM Lee. 

"We treat all races equally, with no special privileges. Few countries have made this their policy, and even fewer have actually managed to make it a reality."

This principle, said Lee, has brought about racial harmony and social stability, which has enabled Singapore to live peacefully. 

Race-related incidents

Nevertheless, the Prime Minister acknowledged that racial harmony may be taken for granted after decades of peace, with some Chinese Singaporeans being unaware of how ethnic minorities feel. The country’s racial harmony remains a work in progress and racial emotions still exist, he said. 

Lee raised two areas of concern for ethnic minorities in the common space for all races: renting a home and finding a job. Some Chinese home owners tell their property agents that they prefer not to have tenants of a particular race, while some employers prefer to hire Chinese employees.

"I raise these two examples to prompt all of us to understand the concerns and difficulties faced by our ethnic minorities and be accommodating towards them."

Such preferences by some home owners and employers could build up to become prejudice. If left unaddressed, this gradually deepen the fissures in Singapore’s society.

"In short, I hope Singaporeans of all races can continue to work for the greater good in the spirit of mutual compromise. Only then can we achieve lasting harmony and unity as a country and society," said PM Lee. 

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