SAF vehicle seizure: Don't politicise the issue

The nine armoured vehicles belonging to the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF), which were bound for Singapore after being used for overseas training, have been seized by Hong Kong Customs at a port in the city.
The nine armoured vehicles belonging to the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF), which were bound for Singapore after being used for overseas training, have been seized by Hong Kong Customs at a port in the city. PHOTO: FACTWIRE NEWS AGENCY

I am disappointed by China's response to the detention of Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) vehicles in Hong Kong and the unwarranted accusation by the Global Times of hypocrisy from Singapore ("Seized SAF vehicles: China makes its unhappiness known"; Nov 29).

As a sovereign state, Singapore has the right to have official relationships and exchanges with anyone. We choose to be friends to all. It is not for China to oppose who we are friends with.

China may be quick to forget how its top leader Deng Xiaoping was reputed to have modelled the growth of China after Singapore, following a visit to the Republic in 1978.

Or that one of our founding fathers, Dr Goh Keng Swee, was appointed a special adviser to two special economic zones in China.

Or that Singapore last year hosted a historic meeting between the leaders of China and Taiwan, the first since the end of the Chinese Civil War in 1949.

But, we cannot forget how Taiwan helped us in our times of need.

SAF troops have been training in Taiwan since the 1970s. It is something the Chinese government has known all along, even before the 1992 Consensus - a tacit agreement between China and Taiwan that there is one China.

I do not see how this would suddenly add to the suspicion that Singapore is working against the one-China principle.

As a little red dot, we have done all we can to support the one-China principle.

If China wants to portray itself as an enlightened leader of the region and of the world, it should not politicise the matter further.

Instead, it should ask Hong Kong to expeditiously return the vehicles to Singapore.

Delaying the return of the vehicles will only create suspicion of China's underlying intent and will damage both China's and Hong Kong's reputation, especially since the shipment reportedly passed through Xiamen without any problem.

Patrick Tan Siong Kuan

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 30, 2016, with the headline 'SAF vehicle seizure: Don't politicise the issue'. Print Edition | Subscribe