Stateless Man Selling Tissue Has Lived In Singapore Since The 1950s
Not many of us may know of stateless people living in Singapore but Mr Wu Taiping (name transliterated from Chinese), who sells tissue packets to get by, is one of them.
Born in Malaysia in 1947, he moved to Singapore at five years of age. He attempted but failed to get Singaporean citizenship.
Mr Wu then lost his Malaysian citizenship at 25 and became stateless in Singapore. He currently makes a living selling tissue paper.
The elderly man only eats one meal a day to save his scant income and can’t afford hospital bills.
Has lived in Singapore for over 70 years
8world News reported on the predicament of Mr Wu, an elderly man around 75 years of age.
Born in Malaysia in 1947, Mr Wu moved to Singapore at the age of five and attended school here till he dropped out three years later. He apparently did so to sing Hokkien opera at the behest of his parents.
Later, he applied for Singaporean citizenship twice, at the ages of 13 and 20. Unfortunately, the applications allegedly failed as he did not know English and Malay.
At the age of 25, Mr Wu lost his Malaysian citizenship for unknown reasons, which rendered him stateless.
Thus, he remained in Singapore until now. Initially, he sung Hokkien opera and even worked as a karang guni or rag-and-bone man.
Mr Wu lived with his girlfriend for 28 years, but she passed away from cancer a few years ago.
He has no children and also no contact with his siblings due to purported financial disputes.
Stateless man sells tissue paper to get by
As Mr Wu does not possess a passport, he cannot leave Singapore. 8world News claimed that he showed no interest in returning to his hometown, as he no longer had relatives there.
Around 10 years ago, he began to sell tissue paper near Paya Lebar MRT station.
Working from 6am to 5pm daily, he earns between S$30 and S$70 inconsistently each day, but says the amount has never exceeded S$100.
Mr Wu lives alone in a living room of a HDB flat, which he rents for S$350 monthly.
At the end of 2022, he obtained a special pass and currently receives S$410 in financial assistance each month.
In spite of that, he complained about the effects of rising costs. The financial difficulties have apparently forced him to eat just one meal a day.
Can’t afford hospital bills
Mr Wu explained that he was in good health until a car accident in Mar 2023.
Recently, he found some redness and swelling in his right eye. A clinic doctor recommended that he go to the hospital for a check-up.
Mr Wu, however, did not follow the doctor’s suggestion, as he could not afford the medical expenses.
He expressed fear of being hospitalised and racking up bills every day beyond his capabilities. Thus, he could only endure the pain.
“If I can’t sell the tissue paper and I run out of money, I can only wait for death,” he said grimly.
Over a thousand stateless people in Singapore
In a written reply in 2021, Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam stated that as of 30 Nov 2020, 1,109 stateless people lived in Singapore.
“76% of them are Singapore Permanent Residents (PRs), and enjoy various benefits accorded to PRs such as in healthcare, housing and education.”
He added that the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) evaluated every application for citizenship or PR from stateless people based off numerous criteria.
These include family ties with Singaporeans, education qualifications, and economic contributions.
Mr Wu’s complaints about rising costs matched many elderly Singaporeans, who described 2023 using the keyword ‘expensive’.
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Featured image adapted from 8world News on Facebook.
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