Govt invokes foreign interference law against Hong Kong-born naturalised S'porean: Who is he?

Chin Soo Fang
The Straits Times
Feb 2, 2024

Mr Philip Chan Man Ping, a Hong Kong-born businessman active in local community organisations, believed in uniting overseas Chinese to tell China’s story.

“It is our duty as overseas Chinese to tell China’s story well, and to spread and pass on the marvellous traditional Chinese culture while we are abroad,” he told Chinese media outlet Chinese Headline New Media (Huaren Toutiao) in a March 2023 interview.

On Feb 2, the 59-year-old naturalised Singaporean was served notice that the authorities intend to designate him as a politically significant person under Singapore’s foreign interference law.

This is because he has been assessed to have shown susceptibility to being influenced by foreign actors, and willingness to advance their interests, the Ministry of Home Affairs said.

Mr Chan, who immigrated to Singapore over 30 years ago, has more than 20 years of experience in the property sector. He is concurrently the managing director of Wen Way Investments and Mutual Benefits Realty, as well as chief executive at C&H Properties.

He is also the founder of China Link Education Consultancy, which organises courses to “nurture better understanding and more appreciation towards China”.

These are targeted at young people and those interested in doing business in China, and cover topics such as Chinese politics, economic development and customs.

Mr Chan was invited to attend China’s Two Sessions parliamentary meetings in March 2023 – the country’s most important political event of the year – as an “overseas Chinese representative”. He was one of 30 such representatives from around the world invited by the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference.

In Singapore, Mr Chan is also president of the Hong Kong Singapore Business Association, which helps to link business communities in Singapore and Hong Kong, and promotes industry and commerce between both cities and China.

He is also president of the Kowloon Club, which helps new immigrants integrate into Singapore society.

In addition, Mr Chan was a patron of the Kampong Chai Chee Citizens’ Consultative Committee and the Bukit Timah Community Club management committee, and serves as a member of charitable organisation SPD’s resource mobilisation and partnerships committee.

The People’s Association said in a statement on Feb 2 that he has stepped down from all grassroots appointments.

Between April 2011 and May 2019, Mr Chan wrote around 30 articles for Singapore Chinese-language news outlet Lianhe Zaobao, primarily in his capacity as president of the Kowloon Club.

Most were published as part of a regular column in Zaobao’s Crossroads section, to which he was one of several guest contributors. One piece was published in the opinion section and another in the paper’s forum pages.

Zaobao editor Goh Sin Teck said: “Crossroads aimed to facilitate the understanding and integration of new immigrants into our community, fostering mutual understanding amongst Singaporeans. The section ceased publication in 2019.”

He added: “Mr Chan’s writings were often his personal reflections, insights gleaned through his real estate profession, as well as immigration issues, such as assimilation of new immigrants into the local society.”

In October 2019, Mr Chan facilitated a public assembly discussing the protests over Hong Kong’s extradition Bill without a permit and was issued a warning by the police.

In his earlier interview with Chinese Headline New Media, Mr Chan said being overseas had exposed him to various voices about China, and added that China is often at a disadvantage in the war of public opinion.

Different media outlets hold different positions, and there are differences in their reports of the same news, he said.

“For example, despite China’s outstanding and exemplary contributions during the global fight against Covid-19, we see more foreign news media discrediting China’s fight against the epidemic.”

He also said Western countries have distorted the truth about China, pointing out that China’s diplomatic style has been labelled “wolf warrior diplomacy” and that terms such as “debt traps” have been used to describe its Belt and Road Initiative.

“The Western media has discredited China considerably. I believe that we cannot solely rely on the official messages conveyed by Chinese diplomats in public,” he said.

“We should put more effort in mobilising righteous individuals overseas who dare to speak up for justice, to get them to join the ranks of spreading truths and exposing the hypocrisy of fake news from the West.”

He added: “I believe it is more convincing and effective, and thus very important, that we turn their weapons against them.”

Mr Chan said it is the “unshirkable responsibility” of every overseas Chinese to tell good stories about China, as well as promote and transmit traditional Chinese culture.

He spoke of having had articles published in Zaobao, but also said his influence was limited. “Since we can only do little alone, we therefore need to be more united,” he said.

He also said his hope is that after the Two Sessions meetings, overseas Chinese representatives from around the world can establish an alliance and organise a conference to facilitate exchanges and understanding.

This can be held annually with the help of the various overseas Chinese affairs offices in China or abroad, he added. The aim is to unite and continue to contribute towards telling China’s story well, he said.

To spread Chinese culture abroad, he urged the relevant government authorities in China to curate a simplified guide for overseas publicity.

In his interview, he also encouraged young people of all ethnicities to develop a deeper understanding of China, noting that many people who grew up overseas lack sufficient understanding of the country and its culture.

“China is the country that represents the future. To understand China, you must first enter China and see China,” he said, adding that he sent his two sons for one-year internships in Beijing and Shanghai, where they saw China’s rapid development and developed a renewed understanding of their father’s ancestral country.

Mr Chan has 14 days from Feb 2 to submit representations to the registrar.

If he is designated as a politically significant person, he can appeal to Minister for Home Affairs K. Shanmugam against the registrar’s decision.

The Straits Times

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