President Tony Tan conferred honorary doctorate by China's Nankai University

Singapore President Tony Tan Keng Yam being conferred an honorary doctorate on Wednesday at Nankai University.
Singapore President Tony Tan Keng Yam being conferred an honorary doctorate on Wednesday at Nankai University.

Singapore President Tony Tan Keng Yam was conferred an honorary doctorate on Wednesday by Nankai University, the alma mater of China's founding premier, in recognition of his contributions to bilateral ties.

It is only the second time a Singapore leader has been accorded such an honour. The first was when Fudan University conferred an honorary doctorate on then Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew in 2005.

Dressed in ceremonial robes, Dr Tan was warmly welcomed by more than 200 guests and students at Nankai University, where former Chinese premier Zhou Enlai had studied.

"The relationship between China and Singapore brings benefits not only to the two countries but to regional and global developments", said Professor Gong Ke, the university's president. "Dr Tan has made significant contributions to that relationship."

In his speech, Dr Tan thanked the university and noted that relations have grown rapidly since the establishment of diplomatic ties 25 years ago.

"This honour is recognition of the strength of Singapore's relations with China and Singapore's close cooperation with Tianjin, in particular through the Sino-Singapore Tianjin Eco-City project," he said.

During a brief question-and-answer session, he was asked by a student about the future of Sino-Singapore ties following the death of Singapore's founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew this year.

"Mr Lee's passing marks the end of an era, but it doesn't mean the end of strong Singapore-China relations," Dr Tan replied, adding that numerous channels of communication have already been set up between the two countries. These include regular ministerial meetings and study trips by officials from both sides.

Dr Tan is in China on his first state visit as President, as part of activities to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties between Singapore and China.

Earlier in the day, he met with Tianjin acting party secretary Huang Xingguo.

chengwee@sph.com.sg