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PM Lee answers questions on Hong Kong protests, Tan Pin Pin film on political exiles

SINGAPORE — After his speech at the National University of Singapore Society (NUSS) Lecture today (Oct 3) Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong answered questions from the audience. Here are excerpts from his responses to questions about the Hong Kong protests and the film, To Singapore, with Love, directed by film-maker Tan Pin Pin.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong replies to a question during the Question-and-Answer session moderated by Professor Tommy Koh, after speaking on Singapore in Transition – The Next Phase, at the NUSS 60th Anniversary Lecture held in the University Cultural Centre, Oct 3, 2014. Photo: Ooi Boon Keong

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong replies to a question during the Question-and-Answer session moderated by Professor Tommy Koh, after speaking on Singapore in Transition – The Next Phase, at the NUSS 60th Anniversary Lecture held in the University Cultural Centre, Oct 3, 2014. Photo: Ooi Boon Keong

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SINGAPORE — After his speech at the National University of Singapore Society (NUSS) Lecture today (Oct 3) Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong answered questions from the audience. Here are excerpts from his responses to questions about the Hong Kong protests and the film, To Singapore, with Love, directed by film-maker Tan Pin Pin.

 

Question on the conditions under which some of the more difficult, controversial points of history can be discussed more normally, so that there can be a common base from which to build a sense of “historical consciousness” and spring board for the future.

Mr Lee’s response:

I think there is no hindrance to discussing the past in a normal way. People express, recount their memories, they write their memoirs. Historians research the archives, they write their thesis, they propound revisionist views of history, others rebut them. Academic fratricide is normal. I mean that is the way, hopefully, knowledge progresses; at least in the sciences, sometimes social sciences. I think what we are dealing with in To Singapore with love is not that. What is that issue in To Singapore, with Love — you’ve got to see it within a historical context. And the historical context was the communist insurgency, in fact an armed insurrection, in which thousands of people were killed. And the movie essentially is about some of these people involved ...

(While some people who were communist or sympathisers or activists have turned around and accounted for their actions, those in the film) have chosen not to do so, it’s their prerogative. But if they have chosen not to do so, why should we allow them, through a movie, to present an account of themselves, not of documentary history, objectively presented. But is a self-serving personal account, conveniently inaccurate in places, glossing over inconvenient facts and others, which will sully the honour and the reputation of the security people, and the brave men and women who fought the communist, all those many years.

A movie is different from a book, you write a book I can write a counter book, you can read together with the counter book. The movie, you watch the movie you think it’s a documentary. It may be like Fahrenheit 911, very convincing, but it’s not a documentary. And I think that we have to understand this in order to understand how to deal with these issues.

 

Question on Mr Lee’s perspective on the situation in Hong Kong — its implication for Hong Kong, China and the region, including Singapore:

Mr Lee’s response:

Hong Kong is in a very unique and delicate position. It’s not a sovereign country. It’s one country, two systems. It’s never had elections all the years when the British ran it as a colony. When the British term ended, the arrangement with the Chinese was one country, two systems and some limited form of democracy in Hong Kong, gradually extending to direct universal suffrage ... So the governing law is Basic Law, the sovereignty is China and the geopolitical reality is that Hong Kong is now part of China. China wants Hong Kong to succeed and do well, and is prepared to go very far to help Hong Kong to succeed and do well but they don’t want Hong Kong to become a problem for them on the other side of the Shenzhen river in China. Absolutely not.

So the Hong Kong people have to make one country two systems work. They, as well as the central government in Beijing, have to do that jointly. It’s a delicate business where exactly does one country end and two systems begin. ... There’s always grey areas for interpretation. There will be issues which will have to come up from time to time, such as exactly how are you going to elect the chief executive. And these have to be resolved by Hong Kong and China but in a way which is in the interests of Hong Kong and which doesn’t hurt the interests of China and which is in accordance with the law and the Basic Law. ...

These are peaceful demonstrations that’s good. They’re not in Tiananmen, they are not in Zhongnanhai so that lowers the temperature but even then it’s a difficult situation for the Chief Executive and his team to manage and I’m quite sure there’s a large team on the Chinese side in Beijing watching this very very carefully. As long as it’s student demonstrators, and you are talking about Hong Kong matters ... Hong Kongers looking after Hong Kong. These are things which best of all Hong Kong can sort out for itself. But if other groups get involved and use this as a way to pressure China or to change China or, I read in the newspapers, that former activists from Tiananmen in 1989 have come to help the students. I don’t think they need such help. Or the students who were doing the Sunflower movement in Taipei also coming to compare notes — so teach you how to occupy something. I don’t think such help is in anyway helpful. I think that will only make things much more complicated.

But I wish them well. I was just there two weeks ago. They were concerned about this. But if you don’t move forward with the chief executive election rules then the status quo remains. It’s workable after a fashion but you have to ask yourself whether that’s the best outcome for Hong Kong.

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