Singapore cracks down on Chinese influence

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“Festive fever” is how the Singapore Chinese Cultural Centre describes the national mood in the run-up to Chinese New Year on February 10th. A different fever troubles the government of Singapore: how to deal with China’s allegedly extensive influence operations in the city-state. This month a sweeping new law against foreign interference was invoked for the first time, against a Hong Kong-born Singaporean, Philip Chan.
Shadowy Chinese operations are not a new development. In 2018 Huang Jing, an academic at the Lee Kuan Yew school at the National University of Singapore, was expelled from the country for his ties to China’s security ministry. And misinformation and propaganda has long coursed through Singaporean social media. There are laws in place to regulate that. But the Foreign Interference (Countermeasures) Act, passed in 2021 and known as fica, grants the home minister, K. Shanmugam, new powers to investigate individuals suspected of engaging in information campaigns by a hostile state. Mr Chan, the government declared, “has shown susceptibility to be influenced by foreign actors and willingness to advance their interests.”

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