Western media coverage biased against China: Shanmugam

Western media coverage biased against China: Shanmugam

There has been much anti-China bias in the Western media's reporting on Hong Kong's situation, said Foreign Minister K. Shanmugam, as he sought to offer another perspective on the current stand-off between Occupy Central protesters and the authorities that is now entering its eighth day.

Speaking to Lianhe Zaobao in an interview published yesterday, Mr Shanmugam said that Western media reports have made Beijing out to be "denying democracy" and acting to infringe on freedoms that have made Hong Kong so successful.

The truth, he said, is that Hong Kong did not have democracy during 150 years of British rule.

Beijing's proposal for Hong Kongers to elect their leader from a vetted list - what the tens of thousands of protesters in Hong Kong are currently amassed against - is actually much more than what the British had ever offered.

Before the handover to China in 1997, neither the British rulers nor the Hong Kong media thought Hong Kong needed democracy, he pointed out. Universal suffrage was also not included in the Sino-British Joint Declaration of 1984, the agreement that cemented the terms of the handover.

"The Western media does not report these facts," he said.

Mr Shanmugam put the Chinese government's hard line towards the Occupy Central protesters in the context of its overarching governance priorities.

At this stage in its development, China's primary goal is unity, progress and a better life for 1.3 billion people, he said, and its leadership believes that it can achieve this only by good governance and avoiding the ills of multi-party democracy.

China's GDP per capita today is US$6,800 (S$8,700), and the Chinese leaders will want to achieve the goal of becoming a moderately prosperous country before they will contemplate any move to democratise.

Two examples confirm Beijing's belief, he noted.

First is the dysfunction and partisan gridlock of the political system in the United States, which has deteriorated to the point of being unable to pass a Budget for years or address any pressing governance issues like immigration reform, improving public education or handling crime and violence.

Because of short electoral cycles, the US government is also unable to plan for the long term, he said.

China, as a poorer, less developed country, believes that it "cannot afford the luxury of such dysfunctionality", he said.

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