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Trending Opinions From Across the Region

AsiaGlobal Voices is a curated feed of summaries of opinion articles, columns and editorials published in local languages in media from across Asia.

The publication of AsiaGlobal Voices summaries does not indicate any endorsement by the Asia Global Institute or AsiaGlobal Online of the opinions expressed in them.
Time For Barristers To Wake Up
Tuesday, May 11, 2021
Time For Barristers To Wake Up

Gu Minkang, Council Member of the Chinese Association of Hong Kong & Macao Studies, in Hong Kong Commercial Daily (February 11, 2021)

Summary by Alan Yang Gregory (Photo credit: Hong Kong Bar Association)

Time For Barristers To Wake Up

The Hong Kong Bar Association has stirred up controversy yet again by electing as its chairman Paul Harris, a British citizen with political ties. Harris represented the UK’s Liberal Democrats as an Oxford City councillor between 2018 to 2021, during which time he expressed support for the Hong Kong protests. In 1995, Harris founded the Hong Kong Human Rights Monitor, which has received support from the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) in the US.

The Bar Association was established in accordance with the Hong Kong Societies Ordinance. Article 8 of the Ordinance stipulates that if an officer of a society “reasonably believes that the prohibition of the operation or continued operation of a society or a branch is necessary in the interests of national security or public safety, public order or the protection of the rights and freedoms of others”, they then “may recommend to the Secretary for Security to make an order prohibiting the operation or continued operation of the society or the branch”. Hong Kong barristers should therefore call for Harris to resign as chairman.

Due to "one country, two systems", it is possible for foreigners to chair the Bar Association. The association, however, check the political background and character of the chairman candidates to ensure that those who are "anti-China” cannot hold such positions. At the same time, the government should consider setting up necessary "safety valves".

This decision also has major bearing on the election of Hong Kong judges, who are elected in accordance with the Judicial Officers Recommendation Committee Ordinance. Under normal circumstances, the chairman of the Bar Association serves as member of the committee. To prevent persons with political positions from exerting undue influence on the committee, it is necessary for the government to refrain from appointing individuals like Harris.


Biden Administration Statement Reverts To The Old One-China Framework
Wednesday, May 5, 2021
Biden Administration Statement Reverts To The Old One-China Framework

Song Cheng-en, doctoral candidate at the University of Oxford, in The Storm Media (January 28, 2021)

Summary by Alan Yang Gregory (Photo credit: stingrayschuller)

Biden Administration Statement Reverts To The Old One-China Framework

Not long after the inauguration of US President Joe Biden, Beijing dispatched military jets into Taiwan’s air defence identification zone. This provocation was seen as not only a military exercise but as a political test for the new administration. The US State Department responded by condemning China for threatening regional peace and stability.

The statement noted Chinese attempts to intimidate its neighbors, including Taiwan, and called on Beijing to “cease its military, diplomatic, and economic pressure against Taiwan and instead engage in meaningful dialogue with Taiwan’s democratically elected representatives”. The US reaffirmed that it would stand with its friends and allies in the Indo-Pacific to promote mutual prosperity, security and values, including deepening relations with democratic Taiwan.

This statement was both soft and tough, maintaining the Trump administration's strong tone, while demonstrating the continuity of US foreign policy. The wording, however, suggested that Washington intends to bring its Taiwan policy back to the framework of the past:

First, the use the "People's Republic of China" (PRC) to refer to China is in line with the position established in “Communiqué on the Establishment of Diplomatic Relations” between the United States and China in 1979. Second, the use of "Taiwan" throughout the text complies with the unofficial policies under the "Taiwan Relations Act". Third, the use of the phrase "Taiwan's democratically elected representatives" deliberately avoids mentioning the Taiwan government, president or officials.

It is impossible to judge the direction of the Biden administration’s Taiwan policy with a single statement and whether the US government returns to the One-China framework will ultimately depend on the government’s own interpretation. Nevertheless, close attention must be paid to how Taiwan’s status is supported or hindered by US policy.


“Chinese” and “Hong Konger” Identities Not As Mutually Exclusive As Before
Monday, May 3, 2021
“Chinese” and “Hong Konger” Identities Not As Mutually Exclusive As Before

Francis Lee Lap-fung, Professor at the School of Journalism and Communication, Chinese University of Hong Kong, in Ming Pao (February 1, 2021)

Summary by Alan Yang Gregory (Photo credit: The Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region)

“Chinese” and “Hong Konger” Identities Not As Mutually Exclusive As Before

The Hong Kong Institute of Public Opinion has published its latest report on identity. According to the 2019 survey, 55.4 percent of respondents described themselves as a “Hong Konger”, while only 10.9 percent believed that they were “Chinese”, and 32.3 percent chose a mixed identity. In 2020, the proportion of people who chose "Hong Konger" dropped to 44.2 percent, while the proportion of people who chose "Chinese" rose slightly to 15.1 percent. These survey results may be welcomed by the government, yet it should be noted that among the 18 to 39-year-old citizens, more than 70 percent of the people still identified as a "Hong Konger".

When citizens were asked to score their Hong Kong and Chinese identities separately, the score for Chinese identity had fallen from 57.3 points to 54.9 between 2019 and 2020. Hong Kong identity scored much higher at 82.6 points in 2019 but fell to 78.7 in 2020. In the first ten years after the handover, there existed a significant positive correlation and a complementary relationship between these two scores (i.e., those who identified themselves strongly as Hong Kong people were more likely to view themselves as Chinese).

This complementary relationship had diminished in recent years and was no longer present in the 2018 survey, particularly among young people aged between 18-39 years old, where a strong Hong Kong identity correlated with a weak Chinese identity, making the two identities mutually exclusive. In 2020, the “Hong Konger” identity has declined. Yet, this has not resulted an increase in the identity score for “Chinese”. Meanwhile, the two identities of “Hong Konger” and “Chinese” are now not as mutually exclusive as before, suggesting that some citizens feel that Hong Kong is becoming more and more "mainlandized".


Why The UK’s Plan To Establish An Anti-China Alliance of Democracies Has Failed
Monday, May 3, 2021
Why The UK’s Plan To Establish An Anti-China Alliance of Democracies Has Failed

Shen Yi, Associate Professor in the School of International Relations and Public Affairs at Fudan University, in Guancha (February 14, 2021)

Summary by Alan Yang Gregory (Photo credit: Georgina Coupe/Number 10)

Why The UK’s Plan To Establish An Anti-China Alliance of Democracies Has Failed

According to a report, the UK’s plans to convert the G7 alliance of developed nations into an anti-China democratic alliance called the D10 (through the inclusion of Australia, South Korea and India) has been suspended. Various factors had prompted the UK to shift back to that classic Cold-War mentality. Constructing a political quasi-alliance that targets China and demonstrates the values of “Western democracy and freedom” was Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s attempt to save face by creating a distraction from domestic problems.

The collapse of the D10 plan was inevitable due to the decline in the status of the G7. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War, the G7 was arguably at the center of the world. According to data from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), however, by 2021, the global share of nominal GDP of the G7 had fallen to are 46 percent. When considering purchasing power parity, this figure decreases to just 32 percent. In sharp contrast, China’s volume, proportion and role in the global system have all shown significant improvement and growth. According to the IMF, China already accounted for roughly 18 percent of the world’s GDP in 2019.

Facing such a shift in the international system, the US and Western countries have two approaches to consider. First, a pragmatic approach would consider the huge benefits brought by the global production system. The alternative approach involves a bizarre ideology based upon throwing around ideas such as the D10 and repeatedly chanting a few catchwords in the hope of restoring the lost old days. Ultimately, the world should have no interest in such plans. After all, there are far more important issues to solve such as the Covid-19 crisis, the need for sustainable economic development, and climate change.


Nuclear Ban Treaty Offers Rare Chance To Strengthen Regional Leadership
Friday, April 30, 2021
Nuclear Ban Treaty Offers Rare Chance To Strengthen Regional Leadership

Sayuri Romei, Stanton nuclear security fellow, RAND Corp., in Asahi Shimbun (April 28, 2021)

Summary by Alejandro Reyes (Photo credit: Zach Stern)

Nuclear Ban Treaty Offers Rare Chance To Strengthen Regional Leadership

Japan is conspicuously absent from the signatories of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW), which took effect in January 2021. The treaty itself is profoundly divisive. Many doubted it would even enter into force. Skeptics describe the TPNW as merely symbolic, as no nuclear power had joined. Supporters of the treaty are confused by this skepticism and point to its long-term objective: to have a significant impact on the international community and change the perception of nuclear weapons.

This divisiveness is here to stay. In Japan, this polarization is even more tangible. Polls show Japan’s public overwhelmingly favors Japan joining. The government, however, does not. One explanation is the view that the treaty is not grounded in reality and will exacerbate the gap between nuclear and non-nuclear states. As a self-proclaimed bridge-builder between nuclear and non-nuclear weapons states, Tokyo does not see how this treaty can bridge that gap.

Another reason behind this stance is Japan’s alliance with the United States. Tokyo prioritizes the alliance, thus ensuring that nuclear deterrence is effectively extended to Japan. Officials never miss an opportunity to emphasize Japan’s atomic survivor identity and its efforts toward nuclear disarmament. Japanese officials see the TPNW as tone-deaf to their concerns and disruptive of Japan’s balancing act.

The implementation of Tokyo’s Free and Open Indo-Pacific vision requires Japan to be a reliable partner for Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) countries. Since all but one ASEAN nation has joined the TPNW, Tokyo’s timing and handling of this issue may impact Japan’s image and leadership. Given the evolving security environment, it may not be the right time to de-emphasize extended nuclear deterrence. Yet leaving the diplomatic door open to the TPNW could be valuable for Japan’s future position in the region.


The Government Should Take Responsibility For Pandemic Protocol Violations
Tuesday, April 27, 2021
The Government Should Take Responsibility For Pandemic Protocol Violations

Lin Jin-chia, psychiatrist, in The Storm Media (December 25, 2020)

Summary by Alan Yang Gregory (Photo credit: 國禎 吳)

The Government Should Take Responsibility For Pandemic Protocol Violations

A New Zealander pilot who broke Taiwan’s long streak with zero confirmed Covid-19 cases has become a public enemy and the focus of intense media criticism. The stock market even plummeted.

This pilot, who works for Taiwan carrier EVA Air, reportedly did not comply with the Covid-19 regulations of the flight crew by not wearing a mask or reporting respiratory symptoms at the end of his flight. As a result, he only had to undergo a short three-day home quarantine. Following this, he reportedly went out without wearing a mask. This negligence and violations of health-management protocols are a major breach in Taiwan’s epidemic-prevention efforts.

There has been limited evidence that EVA intends to act to ensure that such incidents do not occur again. Meanwhile, the Central Epidemic Command Centre (CECC) has stated that the airline’s Covid-10 measures are a matter for the Ministry of Transportation and Communications and the Civil Aviation Administration (CAA). Yet, epidemic control is clearly not within their expertise. Since the CECC exists for this purpose, they should take greater responsibility.

The CAA has stipulated that the airlines are responsible for managing themselves and crews are supposed to follow regulations without supervision. Arguably, cabin crew face high levels of risk, perhaps even higher than medical staff. After being questioned by legislators, the CAA revealed that since the pandemic began, airline crews had committed 24 violations of regulations and only after this breach did the CAA meet with the airline industry to request that they develop a penalty mechanism.

Since the start of the pandemic, the Taiwan government has always adopted a tough public stance. They have, however, shamelessly refused to take responsibility for this incident and continue to avoid answering questions. This attitude is detrimental to Taiwan's overall epidemic prevention.


Sexism is Behind the Energy Drink Boycott
Tuesday, April 27, 2021
Sexism is Behind the Energy Drink Boycott

Kim Min-ah, senior reporter, in Kyunghyang Shinmun (March 15, 2021)

Summary by Soomi Hong (Photo credit: thejames)

Sexism is Behind the Energy Drink Boycott

Bacchus is a South Korean energy drink enjoyed by all age groups. The maker of this popular drink, Dong-A Pharmaceutical, has become the subject of a boycott because of a group job interview that underscored the country’s entrenched sexism. In a session with two male candidates and one female, the head recruiter asked the men about their experiences in the army. When it was the woman’s turn, the questioner asked her to share her views on the pay gap between men and women to make up for the men’s military service. When the company later received public praise for its progressiveness after offering discounts on their feminine products, the woman candidate expressed her outrage about the incident on the social media.

Despite the guidelines issued by the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family and many economic organizations in 2019 which clearly forbid interview questions that favor or put at a disadvantage any group because of gender, such practices are still common. Every day, Korean female candidates for employment experience outrageous comments at interviews including prospective employers remarking that they try not to hire female applicants anymore to avoid potential “me-too” accusations of sexual harassment problems, or that women should not only consider their career success but also fulfill their civic duty in a country suffering from a chronically low birth rate.

All female candidates face some discrimination because of concerns that unmarried women might get married, married women might have children, or unmarried women or women with no children are not being patriotic. This persistent sexism has come to a point where people can no longer enjoy a popular tonic and pretend as if nothing is wrong.


Time For Senior Politicians To Give Way
Tuesday, April 27, 2021
Time For Senior Politicians To Give Way

Lee See Kiang, Chairman of the Social-Economic Committee of the Kuala Lumpur And Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall, in Oriental Daily News (December 30, 2021)

Summary by Alan Yang Gregory (Photo credit: JKPDA)

Time For Senior Politicians To Give Way

Malaysia’s legal retirement age does not apply to politicians. Using the statutory retirement age of 60 as a reference, many senior politicians should seriously consider giving way. Most notably, former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, who is 95 years old, and the 83-year-old former Minister of Finance, Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah, remain active politics.

While youth and women’s participation in politics has been on the rise in recent years, overall participation in decision making remains low. Although young leaders can hold the leadership in youth leagues, their impact within government is minimal. With many of Malaysia’s politicians active for over half a century, it is difficult for the younger generation to rise.

Voters under the age of 40 (including unregistered voters) will soon account for the majority of the electorate of 23 million. Yet members of the legislature under the age 40 only occupy 12 percent of the seats, which is lower than the global average of 14.2 percent. The absence of the country’s youth in the process of national decision-making is clearly unhealthy.

Political parties should invest more resources in nurturing young political leaders while also cultivating their political ability, debating skills and public image. In addition to providing civic education to young people earlier, it is also necessary to give them more opportunities and not to discriminate or restrict them due to their age. Young people can speed up progress and reform. The country should encourage more young politicians to lead. The question is, are the senior politicians willing to give way?


Beijing Now Controls the Decision-Making Power
Wednesday, April 21, 2021
Beijing Now Controls the Decision-Making Power

Chan King-cheung, veteran journalist, in Ming Pao (January 6, 2021)

Summary by Alan Yang Gregory (Photo credit: The Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region)

Beijing Now Controls the Decision-Making Power

The Chinese government took the initiative to establish Hong Kong’s national security law in 2020. This represents a reshuffle with Beijing now completely controlling the decision-making power of the entire special administrative region (SAR). Some believe that this was the result of the months of protests in Hong Kong against the extradition bill. Looking back at developments over the past few years, however, there were several early signs that pointed to this development.

In 2014, Beijing published a white paper which asserted that the central government has "comprehensive jurisdiction" over Hong Kong. According to the interpretation of mainland scholars, comprehensive jurisdiction refers to a sovereign state over its territory. Beijing clearly stated that Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy is limited to that which the central government grants.

Since the introduction of the National Security Law, Hong Kong has formally become part of the entire mainland system. Even in the economic, trade and financial fields, it is necessary to cooperate with national policies and safeguard national security. The culture of officialdom will also gradually shift from the traditional British civil-service system to the "leading cadre" model of mainland China.

Many Hong Kong people are now considering emigrating as the SAR has become increasingly unrecognizable. Hong Kong has traditionally been a bridge between the mainland and the West. Today, Hong Kong has taken a supporting role to the mainland. If this continues, Hong Kong will lose its former glory and its prospects are dire.



The Coast Guard Law is an Opportunity for Maritime-Security Cooperation
Wednesday, April 14, 2021
The Coast Guard Law is an Opportunity for Maritime-Security Cooperation

Yan Yan, Director of the Research of Oceans Law and Policy at the National Institute for South China Sea Studies, in Global Times (February 10, 2021)

Summary by Alan Yang Gregory (Photo credit: US Coast Guard Cutter Morgenthau)

The Coast Guard Law is an Opportunity for Maritime-Security Cooperation

China's new Coast Guard Law took effect on February 1 with much scrutiny from the international community. Some have raised questions over whether the Chinese Coast Guard will become a “second navy", the conditions in which the Chinese Coast Guard use force, and whether the new legislation conforms with international law. Some have claimed the measures would increase regional tensions.

The Chinese Coast Guard has both administrative law-enforcement and military attributes, which are similar to those in many countries in the world such as the US, Australia, the Philippines and Malaysia. The provisions on the use of force and the use of weapons neither violate the rules of international law nor go beyond current state practice. In the South China Sea, the competition for fishery resources has always been associated with the potential for conflict and has been a serious challenge to maritime security. Unlike other countries, China’s maritime law enforcement has never used force against ordinary fishermen of other countries who are operating in the surrounding waters.

The issue of the use of force in maritime law enforcement is particularly sensitive as it tends to intensify wider conflicts in the area. As such, some fear the new law will lead to China using force to consolidate its control over disputed seas. In fact, international law does not prohibit the use of force in law enforcement in disputed waters. Nevertheless, China's maritime law-enforcement forces have maintained goodwill and restraint in maritime operations for many years and will continue not to violate the principle of necessity and proportionality in the future.

Rather than displaying hypocrisy, the international community should take the implementation of the Coast Guard Law as an opportunity to engage with China in good faith and with a positive attitude.


With Hopes For Reconciliation Fading, Face The Prospect Of Conflict
Thursday, April 8, 2021
With Hopes For Reconciliation Fading, Face The Prospect Of Conflict

Lin Yu-fang, a convenor of the National Policy Foundation, in China Times (February 27, 2021)

Summary by Alan Yang Gregory (Photo credit: Rutger van der Maar)

With Hopes For Reconciliation Fading, Face The Prospect Of Conflict

In the minds of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) leaders, the cross-strait confrontation is an unending civil war. As Macau and Hong Kong have successively been "returned", Taiwan has become the next "territory" that must be reclaimed. Over the years, the CCP has continued to dedicate huge defense budgets in pursuit of military modernization, bolstering its influence on the regional and international political arena while preparing for an invasion of Taiwan.

Beijing does not believe that the US military will rush into a war in the Taiwan Strait. The United States and Taiwan have no diplomatic relations, let alone a formal alliance. From the CCP’s point of view, the "Taiwan Relations Act" only guarantees that the US will continue to provide defensive weapons to Taiwan and does not promise any assistance in combat. Beijing also does not seem to believe that the United States dares to break the tacit understanding of power politics – that two nuclear-armed nations would not fight each other so as to avoid a nuclear war.

After the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) returned to power in 2016, Beijing has become more dissatisfied with Taiwan. It has not only blocked Taiwan diplomatically, but continues to oppress it militarily. At the end of 2016, Chinese military aircraft began frequently entering Taiwan’s air defense identification zone. Chinese warships have also crossed the center line of the Taiwan Strait.

To counter these incursions, the defense ministry announced on October 5, 2020, that a total of 4,132 "air combat patrols" had been dispatched during the year, and the Air Force had spent NT$4.1 billion (US$144.2 million) in associated costs. These actions not only deepen mutual hostility but also increase the possibility of conflict. Perhaps it is time to face the possibility of armed conflict in the Taiwan Strait.


Manila Can Be Part of the Solution in Myanmar
Thursday, April 8, 2021
Manila Can Be Part of the Solution in Myanmar

Walden Bello, academic, social worker and member of the House of Representatives of the Philippines from 2007 to 2015, in Philippine Daily Inquirer (April 8, 2021)

Summary by Alejandro Reyes (Photo credit: King Rodriguez/Presidential Communications Operations Office)

Manila Can Be Part of the Solution in Myanmar

Every day since the February 1 military coup, ‍the people have been taking to the streets in protest in all parts of Myanmar. Over 400 people have been killed by police and soldiers firing indiscriminately on crowds of protestors, or murdered randomly in dragnets carried out by day or under cover of darkness.

The Myanmar coup has placed the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) on the spot. In a region where the lives of 650 million people are indissolubly linked politically and economically, the old principle of “non-intervention in the internal affairs” of other member countries that has long governed inter-state relations is anachronistic. The governments of Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore have recognized this in their historic call for a regional summit on recent developments in Myanmar.

Manila has not yet joined this call, which is really disappointing and ironic given that the democratic political system we have owes its existence to a people’s uprising in 1986.

Apparently, the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte is still hesitant to fully break with its previous policy of refraining from any criticism of the Myanmar government, even of the latter’s inhuman policy of genocide toward the Rohingya people.

Myanmar is at a crossroads. The coup was not a show of strength. It was an act of desperation. A decade of liberalization had given the people a taste of what full freedom would be after decades of stifling military rule, and they will not give up their dream. The Philippine government likewise is at a crossroads in its diplomacy toward Myanmar. It can either be part of the problem or part of the solution. Let it be the latter.


Covid-19 Measures Cannot Be Relaxed
Wednesday, April 7, 2021
Covid-19 Measures Cannot Be Relaxed

侯显佳 (Hou Xianjia), columnist, in Oriental Daily News (December 23, 2020)

Summary by Alan Yang Gregory (Photo credit: Muzzafar Kasim/Ministry of Health of Malaysia)

Covid-19 Measures Cannot Be Relaxed

While Covid-19 measures continue to be introduced they are proving to be ineffective, and society is becoming increasingly desperate. The pandemic situation in Europe is also critical, and many countries such as the United Kingdom, Germany, and Italy have tightened their control measures. Malaysia, however, is doing the opposite, and the policy is becoming more relaxed. Instead, focus is being placed on the vaccines as a solution.

The Malaysian government has purchased 12.8 million doses of vaccine from Pfizer with the first batch of one million doses due to arrive in the first quarter of 2021. In addition, the government signed an agreement with AstraZeneca to purchase another 6.4 million doses. According to the prime minister, the government will also purchase Chinese and Russian vaccines to ensure that the supply of vaccines exceeds 80 percent of the population.

Compared with other countries, however, Malaysia's Covid-19 vaccination rollout is not progressing fast enough. Singapore, which also purchased the Pfizer vaccine, has already received its first batch. The first batch of Covid-19 vaccines ordered by Indonesia from China’s Sinovac arrived in December.

It will take some time before the vaccine is able to protect most of the population. The government must use this time to plan vaccine distribution and logistics to avoid chaos. Furthermore, during this period, Covid-19 measures cannot be relaxed. The government must continue to halt the spread of the virus otherwise the medical system may be overwhelmed even when after the vaccine arrives. Meanwhile, the public should remain vigilant and continue to observe social distancing while taking care of their personal hygiene.


The Tragedy in Myanmar: Where Is It Heading?
Wednesday, March 31, 2021
The Tragedy in Myanmar: Where Is It Heading?

Roberto R Romulo, Chairman, Philippine Foundation for Global Concerns, and Secretary of Foreign Affairs of the Philippines (1992-1995), in his column Filipino Worldview in The Philippine Star (March 12, 2021)

Summary by Alejandro Reyes (Photo credit: Prachatai)

The Tragedy in Myanmar: Where Is It Heading?

The desired end game of the Myanmar military coup would be a sham election where the junta’s party wins and strongman Min Aung Hlaing is made president. What the general did not expect was the determined opposition of the brave Burmese people. The junta has increasingly been violent and brutal in suppressing protests.

The US and other countries have imposed sanctions aimed at denying junta members access to their personal fortune deposited overseas and to prohibit doing business with the military-owned companies. Although China has stayed neutral and is watching developments before it commits itself, it has said that it is not happy with what has transpired.

All ASEAN came out with is a bland statement urging “all parties” to refrain from instigating violence and to seek a peaceful solution. Aside from falling on deaf ears in the junta, this was also not well received by the protesters.

The key is the heroism of the Burmese people opposing the junta. They want no less than a regime change. That can only happen two ways: either the world, including ASEAN and with China playing a key role, acts more purposefully to force the junta to back down, or senior government and military officials arise and side with the people.

We must keep supporting the Burmese people to stand fast and we must get our government to act and rouse ASEAN to action, which to date has reinforced the belief that it has been inutile when it comes to human rights and oppression. Taking the unprecedented, but legal expulsion of Burma from ASEAN would give a dramatic message to the junta and to the people, and swing the balance in favor of the latter. They could, of course, always be readmitted subsequently.


The Past, Present and Future of Hawker Culture
Tuesday, March 30, 2021
The Past, Present and Future of Hawker Culture

Amy Khor, Senior Minister of State in the Ministry for Sustainability and the Environment and Ministry for Transport, in Lianhe Zaobao (January 16, 2021) 

Summary by Alan Yang Gregory (Photo credit: David Berkowitz)

The Past, Present and Future of Hawker Culture

Having a meal at a hawker centre is a simple pleasure for many Singaporeans. The first hawker centre was built in the 1970s to house mobile hawkers so that they could do business in a more hygienic environment. With the development of Singapore, the number of hawker centers has increased, and the quality has also improved. Singapore now has more than 110 hawker centers, which are an undeniable part of the country’s rich historical and cultural heritage. To satisfy demand, seven new hawker centers have been constructed since 2015, and 10 more are expected to be completed by 2027.

However, the Covid-19 pandemic has brought challenges to the industry with many hawkers suffering a sharp decline in business due to office workers working at home and the absence of foreign tourists. To help hawkers, who are frontline heroes, through this difficult year, the government has provided assistance by reducing rent and offering subsidies. In addition, many center operators have worked closely with hawkers to introduce food delivery services. 

After the Covid-19 crisis, it will be important to provide hawkers with the necessary support to ensure that they can successfully adapt to the new normal. To achieve this goal, hawkers, trade associations, organization representatives and customers should engage in dialogue to gain an in-depth understanding of the concerns of all parties and work together to find solutions. While hawker culture has already successfully been included in the UNESCO Representative List of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, all Singaporeans should play a part in maintaining local hawker culture and support these businesses in the future.