Moral leadership in a fragmenting world

This is an edited transcript of the 24th Gordon Arthur Ransome Oration by ex-foreign minister George Yeo in Singapore last week

What characterises the protest movement in Hong Kong is its fluid, leaderless, organic character, with social media reinforcing beliefs and biases. The writer says there are larger, deeper forces at work in the city. PHOTO: BLOOMBERG
What characterises the protest movement in Hong Kong is its fluid, leaderless, organic character, with social media reinforcing beliefs and biases. The writer says there are larger, deeper forces at work in the city. PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

This oration was originally planned to be held in Hong Kong last December in conjunction with an event co-organised by the Academies of Medicine of Singapore, Malaysia and Hong Kong. Unfortunately, that event had to be cancelled because of the unsettled situation in Hong Kong.

No one expected the protests which began in June last year to become so big and to last so long. As a legislator of many years, I decided to download the Extradition Bill and read it for myself. Frankly, I did not find the proposed amendments to existing laws unreasonable. It did not seem right that one could commit rape or murder in China and find sanctuary in Hong Kong.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 25, 2020, with the headline 'Moral leadership in a fragmenting world'. Subscribe