Terrexes ‘Won’t Be Returned’
A video has surfaced showing a Chinese commentator saying Singapore’s impounded Terrexes “would not be returned” unless Singapore fulfills certain conditions, further angering Singaporeans already peeved by China’s actions.
The video, originally posted on the website of Chinese broadcaster ifeng in December 2016, shows Mr Song Zhong Ping (宋忠平), a renowned military commentator and columnist with a large following of 3 million people on his social site Weibo, weighing in on the issue.
What He Said
Here’s a rough translation of his views, taken from 1:28 onwards:
“The issue remains unresolved up till today because Singapore did not respond to our conditions, or did not provide a satisfactory answer.
The conditions stated were as follows:
First, Singapore must respect Hong Kong’s laws and regulations—why were no authorities informed when such a sensitive vehicle arrived in Hong Kong? Such a behavior violates Hong Kong’s Law and we want a clear explanation, or even a guarantee. Singapore did not provide both.
Secondly, Singapore promised to adhere to the ‘One China’ Policy and give up military cooperation with Taiwan in 2009 and 2012. Yet, it is already 2016 and Singapore is still training with the Taiwanese military. Singapore has not adhered to the ‘One China’ Policy as they promised and we want an explanation.
Singapore’s stance is vague—she states that she recognizes the ‘One China’ Policy. Yet, she also states that her cooperation with Taiwan has been long standing, as it started in the 1970s.
Well, there is a misjudgment there.
Back in the 1970s with the United States backing Singapore, Singapore could go ahead with the military cooperation with Taiwan. China had no choice but accept it, owing to the general economic conditions then.
Times are different now. Both China and Singapore have changed. Singapore used to be one of the four Asian Tigers, but her economy is not doing as well today. Singapore should assess the changing situation and react accordingly. If you want the vehicles back, you must answer to the two conditions we laid out. If not, your vehicles would not be returned.”
In case you’ve been living under a rock, here’s what happened.
In November last year, nine Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) Terrex vehicles were detained at a port in Hong Kong. The nine vehicles were detained in a routine inspection when en route to Singapore, after a joint military exercise in Taiwan. One and a half months later, the issue remains unresolved.
Singaporeans Not Pleased
With Mr Song implying that Singapore has been hypocritical with regard to its relations with China and Taiwan, some Singaporean netizens have expressed displeasure on YouTube.
It is apparent that this detaining of our vehicles was a result of years of China’s displeasure over our ties with Taiwan. A Facebook user stressed the importance of sticking to our guns.
Others just slammed China as being a bully.
Might Is Right
As Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said in an interview with Channel NewsAsia in Sept 2016, “no single issue defines the whole relationship with another country”. He also mentioned that Singapore recognises that the reality is that big powers “don’t always abide by the rules”.
Well, we are seeing the effects of that now, and let’s hope this issue doesn’t define our relationship with China.
The Importance Of International Law
Meanwhile, being a small country, it is only natural that we fall back onto international law as we have always done, because it is in our best interests to do so. Ambassador-At-Large Tommy Koh summed it up best in his lecture to members of the Law Society of Singapore last year:
“Singapore has sought to use international law as both a sword to advance its interests, and a shield to defend its interests… It therefore adopts a principled approach in always abiding by international law,” said Prof Koh.
The fact remains that Singapore has sovereign rights over the Terrexes and it is against international law for Hong Kong to detain them, regardless of Singapore’s stance on the South China Sea issue or China-Taiwan relations.
Failing which, we can always rely on good humour, like this YouTube commenter who joked about the Terrexes’ name sounding similar to that of the dinosaur Tyrannosaurus Rex.
We Want Them Back
We do hope we get our Terrexes back without having to resort to using dinosaurs.
Featured image from YouTube