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Lee Kuan Yew

Chinese nationalists gloat over Singapore first family saga

Mainlanders react to bitter feud online, with some accusing Lee Hsien Loong of being ‘anti-China’ and others reflecting on Beijing’s authoritarian rule

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 15 June, 2017, 4:13pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 06 July, 2017, 11:13pm

Mainlanders watching with interest a bitter feud playing out among Singapore’s first family have taken to social media to vent about the “anti-China” administration, while others reflected on the politics of their own country.

Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s two younger siblings on Wednesday issued a statement on Facebook accusing him of misusing his power and betraying the legacy of their late father and founding leader of the city-state, Lee Kuan Yew.

They said they believed their brother was using state organs to harass them – and they feared for their safety. Lee Hsien Loong responded by criticising his siblings for “publicising private family matters”.

Facebook is banned on mainland China, but reports of the dispute – which centres on the fate of a house where Lee Kuan Yew lived for seven decades – were carried by state media outlets including news agency Xinhua, Communist Party mouthpiece People’s Daily and nationalist tabloid Global Times.

Many of those commenting online were keen to see how the drama would unfold, while nationalists who accused Singapore of being “anti-China” took the opportunity to gloat about Lee Hsien Loong’s troubles.

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“The Lee family is the vanguard of anti-China [forces]. But if you want to oppose China, you should first get your family matters in order,” read one comment on Weibo, China’s version of Twitter.

Meanwhile a report on the open feud in Global Times on Thursday was flooded with some 5,600 comments – many of them showing more than a touch of schadenfreude.

The top comment attracted 1,440 “likes”: “Lee Hsien Loong, an anti-China lackey of the United States. Even his siblings are breaking from him. Chinese people should forever remember this anti-China lackey of the West. He is more anti-China than anyone else.”

Partly fanned by state media, nationalist sentiment has been on the rise in China in recent years, with a younger and more vocal generation frequently going online to defend their country against the slightest criticism – or to attack any foreign countries or leaders they see as running counter to the national interest.

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Lee Hsien Loong’s administration angered many Chinese nationalists during a diplomatic row over the South China Sea last summer. Since then, mistrust has grown between the two nations – which have long shared deep ethnic and cultural bonds – as China continues to take a more assertive stance on foreign policy.

One of the most “liked” comments on Weibo made reference to authoritarian rule in China. “[Such feuds] are more spectacular in China, but they’re never made public,” it read.

The siblings and children of China’s top leaders have traditionally kept a low profile. Family disputes within the Communist Party’s ruling elite are settled in private and airing them in public remains a taboo.

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“Surprising that they did not unite around the core leadership of Lee Hsien Loong,” read another comment on social media, a tongue in cheek reference to Xi’s status as the “core” leader of the party. Xi was publicly endorsed as such at a key meeting last year. Since then, the pledge to “closely unite around the Central Committee with Comrade Xi Jinping as the core” has echoed through all sectors of officialdom – from the party and the government to the military, and from Beijing to provinces across the country.