Remembering Lee Kuan Yew

Remember great man like Mr Lee Kuan Yew by building stronger ties: China's state councillor

BEIJING - Working harder in partnership to build a more constructive and productive relationship between China and Singapore is the best way to remember "a great man" like Mr Lee Kuan Yew, said Chinese State Councillor Yang Jiechi.

He said Mr Lee, who died on Monday, played a "historic role" in opening up Singapore's relationship with Chinese leaders and made "unique contributions" to the various substantive cooperations between the two countries.

"He will go down in the annals of history as the founding father of Singapore and as a great contributor to the development of the China-Singapore relationship," he added.

Mr Yang was speaking at the Singapore Embassy in Beijing on Thursday after paying respects to the former prime minister and signing the condolence book.

He also expressed confidence that under Singapore's current leadership, the city state can continue to make "even greater achievements in social and economic development" as it celebrates its 50th year of independence.

The Singapore embassy has continued to receive a steady stream of visitors since it opened its doors to the public on Monday, with hundreds of Singaporeans, diplomats and members of the public coming to pay their respects.

China's former ambassador to Singapore (1993 to 1995) Yang Wenchang also came to sign the condolence book on Thursday.

He said Mr Lee has to be credited for his "momentous contribution" in transforming Singapore from a backwater to Asia's richest country in terms of GDP per capita.

"He is a great leader. He is also one of the leaders that the Chinese people, including Deng Xiaoping, respect the most," Mr Yang said. "I've met him many times... We share a deep friendship and I respect him."

Some 60 students from Singapore Polytechnic, who are at the tail-end of their six-week industrial internship in Beijing, also took time off work to pay tribute to Mr Lee, with a banner that read "We sorrowfully grieve over Mr Lee Kuan Yew".

One of them, 19-year-old Mah Yuen Fone, told The Straits Times that they decided to pay their respects as Mr Lee is a "remarkable guy who contributed to building an independent Singapore".

He added that "our Chinese bosses were understanding because they also know Mr Lee and what he has done".

esthert@sph.com.sg