Population White Paper debate: Who's xenophobic?

SINGAPORE - Over the past week, the continuing conversation on the Population White Paper has taken on a new buzzword: xenophobia.

At least three individuals critical of the Government's immigration policies have been labelled anti-foreigner.

Most recently, Workers' Party chief Low Thia Khiang has had to defend himself against a charge of inciting xenophobia in his speech during the parliamentary debate.

So has Mr Gilbert Goh, the organiser of what has been touted to be the biggest protest rally in Singapore since Independence, and a young man who attended it in punk attire and was seen holding up a sign saying "Singapore for Singaporeans".

Several speakers at the protest last Saturday also took pains to make clear that they are not xenophobic, which is an intense dislike or fear of people from other countries.

But accusations continue to be lobbed at various personalities on different media platforms.

The thorny topic of foreigners continues to dominate online and offline conversations two weeks after Parliament held an intense debate on the White Paper.

In the latest twist, those who voice strong opposition to foreigner-friendly policies find themselves risking being called xenophobic even if they are not.

Those who fear that closing the door on foreigners could hurt Singapore are also getting hit by those who say they are not pro-Singapore enough.

The growing divide bears watching, said observers like Dr Leong Chan-Hoong of the Institute of Policy Studies (IPS).

"We're becoming more polarised and politicised than ever on immigration and integration," he said.

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