On Hong Kong

Question:     Sir, in Hong Kong, the situation here is that the protestors are gearing up or are already in action actually.  So do you think that Singapore has anything to learn from watching how the situation here develops as the pro-democracy activists struggle with the establishment for the future of Hong Kong?

PM Lee: You see, once you state your question, you have already been captured by the language.  You have “the establishment”, presumably some people sitting high up on top.  You have “the pro-democracy activists”, by definition they must be the good guys.  Then the rest of your thought processes follow.  But actually, Hong Kong is embarked on a path of “One Country, Two Systems”, and is governed according to the Basic Law.  It is unprecedented. It is the only such arrangement in the world, and they have to make it work.  It’s not easy.  Issues are bound to arise from time to time.  They have to be worked out by the Hong Kong people and with the PRC, with the central government in Beijing.  Both sides have very big vested interests in making it work, and I wish them all the best in working it out.  But it has to be on the basis of “One Country, Two Systems”, on what the Basic Law says, and on what is in the interest of Hong Kong as well as of China.  There is really no other way forward.  If you understand that, then you will know what are the possible ways forward, and which paths don’t lead to any practical, sensible outcomes.

Question:     And going the way forward, imagine, do you think in fact the Occupy Central way is the way to go, since Beijing has already said that they will not capitulate to protests?

PM Lee:       These are matters for Hongkongers to decide, but I find it very hard to believe that demonstrations are going to fundamentally change this basic structure of the situation, which is that this is “One Country, Two Systems”.  This is not an independent, sovereign country, and it has to go according to the Basic Law.

Question:     Any lessons here for Singapore?

PM Lee:       Every country has a different situation, and we all have to find our respective ways forward.  We have to evolve, we have to adapt, but we must have a good sense of our overall geostrategic circumstances, and how we can fit in.  In this respect, we are different from Hong Kong.  They are part of China; the sovereignty is Chinese.  We are an independent country surrounded by bigger neighbours.  Hong Kong has a very big neighbour, but that very big neighbour is one country with Hong Kong.  Our neighbours are bigger than us too; but they are different countries from us, fortunately friendly ones.  And we have to be able to prosper in friendship and in cooperation with our neighbours.




李总理 我看香港现在很热门的课题就是特首普选的问题。香港的情况是很特殊的。香港不是一个独立主权的国家。香港是一国两制,并且是依照基本法行事的。这个是史无前例的一个安排。要把它做的成功,肯定会遇到一些挑战。现在这个普选的问题,香港议论纷纷。可是如果不依照基本法去处理,如果不了解这个“一国两制”的大框架的话,我看会出现很多困难。我想中国中央政府方面,一定很渴望这个问题可以圆满地解决。香港方面也很希望这个问题可以顺利地解决,因为这是一个很重要的问题,如果处理不好,香港会承受很大的打击。所以,双方都有动机把它处理好。希望两边都能够很理智的、很稳重的,把这个问题办好。同时,当然希望香港人民能够支持一个有利于香港,同时维护中国整体利益的一个解决的方案。


Question:     PM, just to move away from China, the US and the UK are gathering an international coalition against the ISIS threat in Syria.  There have been reports that Singaporeans are actually travelling over there to be involved.

PM Lee:       Yes, that is so.

Question:     Do you think that Singapore will join this call?  And also, how influential do you think this organisation is in Singapore and the region?

PM Lee:       We are happy that the US has taken a stand against ISIS.  This is a threat to people all over the world.  I see that the Australians have just launched a major security operation yesterday, picking up people who were about to do something terrible in Australia.  We in Singa­pore have had people go to Syria, Iraq and join ISIS, so we are exposed too.  Certainly the Indonesians and the Malaysians have significant numbers of their citizens there.  The Malaysians have had more than one person killed there in the fighting, some as suicide bombers.  So we have to take it seriously. 

How can we support the American-led effort? That is something we can discuss.  We have not reached the point of making a decision yet.  Even how the Americans are going to pursue this, and what exactly they are going to do, they haven’t quite decided yet.  They are not going to put troops on the ground. 

It is a very complicated situation. It’s not one of those situations where you can say, those are the bad guys, let’s knock them out.  You are talking about 30 something thousand fighters.  They command a very substantial area of land.  They have resources – they have oil; they are in fact running a government.  And they are also fighting the government in Syria, which very recently, if you go by the international media, was still being seen as the bad guys.  They are also fighting against the Iranians.  In the Middle East, things are never simple. You can’t come riding in on a white horse and knock out the bad guys, then tomorrow peace breaks out.