NGOs did not flourish in Asian countries where people looked to governments to solve their problems, Singapore's Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew said yesterday.
The founding father of the city state made the comments yesterday in conversation with former US president Bill Clinton and during a question-and-answer session afterwards.
He said cultural differences explained why civic groups in Asia were weaker than their European and US counterparts, in response to a question from the floor.
'In Japan and the Confucianist societies of East Asia, such as Korea, China, Vietnam and the Chinese communities in Southeast Asia, people have always been looking to the authorities to solve problems,' Mr Lee said.
He noted that the Chinese system in which an emperor sanctioned his officials and magistrates had existed for 4,000 years.
Hence, the idea of citizens mobilising support for causes was often seen as threatening.
During the 40-minute session, Mr Lee, who has been outspoken about Hong Kong issues during his previous visits, did not touch on the city's development.
But he said Japanese women were 'rebelling against becoming slaves of their husbands and in-laws', after Mr Clinton suggested education for women could raise the marital age and curb population growth.
'You have to couple the education of women with equal job opportunities,' Mr Lee said.
'If you just educate them and keep them at home, they are back to the old pattern of life and they are homemakers and they produce children.'