Photo of Lee Hsien Loong from RSF

In what seems like a slap to Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s comment on “respecting the rule of law”, China Foreign Ministry said that Singapore should follow the law and stated that they oppose any form of official exchanges with Taiwan:

“All people and goods entering Hong Kong Special Administrative Region should follow the laws of the SAR. I’d like to reiterate that the Chinese government firmly opposes any of the countries that has diplomatic ties with us to have any form of official exchanges with Taiwan, including defence exchanges and cooperation.”

In August 2016, the Singapore PM told China to “respect the rule of law” and give up their claim on the South China Sea. As Singapore is not a claimant country, China rebuked that it will not tolerate any external interference. As of last week’s APEC meeting at Peru, China has resolved the South China Sea matter with Philippines bilaterally and is looking to settle the issue with each claimant country respectively. China-Singapore relationship further worsen with PM Lee Hsien Loong telling them that they are no longer the “middle kingdom” and should not act like one.

According to Hong Kong independent press FactWire, the China government is the one behind the tip-off that led to the seizure of 9 Singapore Armed Force (SAF) armoured vehicles on Wednesday (Nov 23).

You may read the details of the seizure here.

The SAF vehicles were seized after the transport vessel docked at the Hongkong port, under suspicion of transporting controlled equipment without a permit. Currently, the Hongkong and Chinese authorities are inspecting the seized vehicles which is likely to have leaked confidential military data to China.

According to the news article by Factwire:

“Before the vessel arrived at the Hong Kong port, Customs were informed by mainland law enforcement organisations that the vessel contained undeclared military materials, and did not have an approval notice. When it arrived in Hong Kong, the Customs searched the vessel and confiscated relevant military materials.”

In Factwire’s interview with a port worker, an entire team of officers was sent to search the vessel  – APL QATAR 041 – when routine inspections typically involved just two to three officers.

The SAF pushed the blame to a commercial shipping line, APL:

“APL was required to adhere to all regulations, including declaring the equipment it transports in the ship’s cargo manifest and obtaining the permits needed to transit through ports.”

SAF has sent a team of diplomats to “address the security of the equipment” and requested for the vehicles to be returned expeditiously. However, it is unlikely Hong Kong, under the directive of China, will respond accordingly.

The move is seen as one of the many passive-aggressive moves, including tens of billions of investments in neighbouring Malaysia, made by China against Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong for his unsolicited comments on South China Sea.