Lee Kuan Yew an unlikely icon for HK independence

It is ironic that our late founding prime minister, Mr Lee Kuan Yew, has become an inspiration for the Hong Kong localists clamouring for democracy (" 'If you love China, you hate Hong Kong' "; last Saturday).

For a long time, Mr Lee was regarded by many in Hong Kong as an autocrat. When he was conferred an honorary doctorate in law from the Chinese University of Hong Kong in December 2000, some student activists mounted a campaign against him and even urged their schoolmates to turn their backs on him.

The localists may not be aware that Mr Lee was not a separatist but, in fact, was for integration with Malaysia. The tears shed by Mr Lee in announcing separation from Malaysia were not tears of joy, but of trepidation at the uncertain future of independent Singapore.

But for the talent, grit and dedication of Mr Lee and his comrades, Singapore could have easily gone down the drain instead of being a shining example of progress so admired by the Hong Kong localists today.

The departure of Singapore from Malaysia should not be taken in the same breath as the separation of Hong Kong from China.

At the time of separation, Malaysia was just a newly formed federation of former South-east Asian British colonies. Hong Kong has historically been a part of China.

Resorting to anarchy to extract political concession from China will be futile and hurt both China and Hong Kong, especially the latter.

Robert Tang Hin Ching

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 18, 2016, with the headline 'Lee Kuan Yew an unlikely icon for HK independence'. Print Edition | Subscribe