A Spectacular Ferrari Crash In Singapore And The Rise Of Anti-Chinese Resentment

A deadly car crash in Singapore by a wealthy driver from China has sparked a new round of national resentment toward the Chinese. And Singapore is not alone.

Shopping mall in Shanghai
Chinatown in Singapore (INABA Tomoaki)
Zhu Chong

BEIJING - Ten days ago in Singapore, a 31-year-old Chinese man driving a Ferrari 599 GTO went speeding through a red light. His car crashed into a taxi, killing two people in the taxi as well as himself. Shocking video footage of this accident circulated on YouTube.

For days, headlines of the local media were full of anti-Chinese sentiment. Public opinion and websites were charged up with Singaporean indignation, calling on the Chinese to "Get out!" One commentator even quipped that the ashes of the Ferrari driver should not stay to pollute the very limited land of this city-state.

It's not the first time we Chinese have heard such voices. In Hong Kong, which counts mainland Chinese as is its biggest economic partner, there has been a huge parade protesting the massive number of Chinese women "dropping in" for childbirth care. Even though Chinese mainlanders bring tens of billions worth of consumption to this former British colony, the Hongkongese still call them locusts, accusing them of being low-class, noisy and dirty.

In Europe and the United States people covet Chinese tourists' tremendous spending power with an average of $7,200 per capita of consumption when they go abroad. The West tries in every way to attract the Chinese, so why is it that Chinese are, on the contrary, so unwelcome in places that also happen to be populated by the Chinese diaspora.

Are Chinese facing true discrimination, or are they just too sensitive? Are Singaporeans going overboard, or are there legitmate gripes?

Many Chinese newcomers living in Singapore are really vexed. One said: "Which country doesn't have car accidents? Should one be barred from owning an expensive car just because you are from China? The ancestors of the people who speak mandarin here were also beggars who came here to look for a better future!" Another pointed out that the Ferrari had a permanent resident card so he was Singaporean...and contributed taxes here just like everyone else."

Peng Hui, a professor of sociology at National Singapore University, was once a visiting scholar to Shanghai, who now consults on Sino-Singapore affairs. "Singaporeans do not discriminate against the Chinese. On the contrary, they very much identify with their Chinese ancestry," says Peng. "What the local people do not appreciate is the fact that Chinese people talk loudly in public, eat on the subway and like to squeeze through in a crowd or grab things."

More disgusted than locals

Liu Jing came as a Chinese student in 1996. Because of the Singapore government's "Talent Plan" at the time, he stayed and became a Singaporean. He agrees that the Chinese are notorious for not obeying the law and doing as they please. For example, he once received a group of Chinese hospital directors, who were told clearly in advance that they are not allowed to take photos in the hospital they were visiting. But these directors, who were themselves doctors, just ignored the restriction.

"As a Chinese, I felt even more disgusted than the local people," Liu recalled.

Nevertheless, Liu believes that the key point of the anti-Chinese sentiment is the fact that the Chinese car driver had a Ferrari. "The media attention was all about the expensive cars. Ordinary people despise those poorer than them, and envy the rich," he said. "In recent years, lots of Chinese are helping create jobs for Singaporeans. Since they can't look down on the poor Chinese any more, they criticize the rich Chinese."

For instance, they attribute the rising housing prices and the traffic congestion to the Chinese, and call newcomers the "rich Chinese locusts," says Liu.

There are nearly one million Chinese foreigners currently living in Singapore. In the past ten years, because of the Talent Plan, the overall Chinese population in Singapore has increased by 23%. Because of China's notorious official corruption, collusion and vested interest groups, a young man driving a half-million-dollar car is bound to arouse people's suspicion as to the origin of his money, thus implicating other Chinese people in the incident.

In Peng Hui's view, "Both Singapore and China are in an historical process. When I helped the Chinese to set up the first fashion magazine in Shanghai in early 1990, the Chinese had only just taken off the Mao costumes everybody had been wearing. Yet today, China is the world's top country for luxury goods. After all, the generalization of higher education is only just a generation away."

I personally happened to be a Chinese visitor in Singapore when the unfortunate crash occurred. When the taxi driver arrived at the airport to see us off, he nodded to say thank you instead of waving the newspaper in our faces.

Read the original article in Chinese

Photo - INABA Tomoaki

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Ecological Angst In India, A Mining Dumpsite As Neighbor

Local villagers in western India have been forced to live with a mining waste site on the edge of town. What happens when you wake up one day and the giant mound of industrial waste has imploded?

The mining dumpsite is situated just outside of the Badi village in the coastal state of Gujarat

Sukanya Shantha

BADI — Last week, when the men and women from the Bharwad community in this small village in western India stepped out for their daily work to herd livestock, they were greeted with a strange sight.

The 20-meter-high small hill that had formed at the open-cast mining dumpsite had suddenly sunk. Unsure of the reason behind the sudden caving-in, they immediately informed other villagers. In no time, word had traveled far, even drawing the attention of environment specialists and activists from outside town.

This mining dumpsite situated less than 500 meters outside of the Badi village in the coastal state of Gujarat has been a matter of serious concern ever since the Gujarat Power Corporation Limited began lignite mining work here in early 2017. The power plant is run by the Power Gujarat State Electricity Corporation Limited, which was previously known as the Bhavnagar Energy Company Ltd.

Vasudev Gohil, a 43-year-old resident of Badi village says that though the dumping site is technically situated outside the village, locals must pass the area on a daily basis.

"We are constantly on tenterhooks and looking for danger signs," he says. Indeed, their state of alert is how the sudden change in the shape of the dumpsite was noticed in the first place.

Can you trust environmental officials?

For someone visiting the place for the first time, the changes may not stand out. "But we have lived all our lives here, we know every little detail of this village. And when a 150-meter-long stretch cave-in by over 25-30 feet, the change can't be overlooked," Gohil adds.

This is not the first time that the dumpsite has worried local residents. Last November, a large part of the flattened part of the dumpsite had developed deep cracks and several flat areas had suddenly got elevated. While the officials had attributed this significant elevation to the high pressure of water in the upper strata of soil in the region, environment experts had pointed to seismic activities. The change is evident even today, nearly a year since it happened.

It could have sunk because of the rain.

After the recent incident, when the villagers raised an alarm and sent a written complaint to the regional Gujarat Pollution Control Board, an official visit to the site was arranged, along with the district administration and the mining department.

The regional pollution board officer Bhavnagar, A.G. Oza, insists the changes "aren't worrisome" and attributes it to the weather.

"The area received heavy rain this time. It is possible that the soil could have sunk in because of the rain," he tells The Wire. The Board, he says, along with the mining department, is now trying to assess if the caving-in had any impact on the ground surface.

"We visited the site as soon as a complaint was made. Samples have already been sent to the laboratory and we will have a clear idea only once the reports are made available," Oza adds.

Women from the Surkha village have to travel several kilometers to find potable water

Sukanya Shantha/The Wire

A questionable claim

That the dumpsite had sunk in was noticeable for at least three days between October 1 and 3, but Rohit Prajapati of an environmental watchdog group Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti, noted that it was not the first time.

"This is the third time in four years that something so strange is happening. It is a disaster in the making and the authorities ought to examine the root cause of the problem," Prajapati says, adding that the department has repeatedly failed to properly address the issue.

He also contests the GPCB's claim that excess rain could lead to something so drastic. "Then why was similar impact not seen on other dumping sites in the region? One cannot arrive at conclusions for geological changes without a deeper study of them," he says. "It can have deadly implications."

Living in pollution

The villagers have also accused the GPCB of overlooking their complaint of water pollution which has rendered a large part of the land, most importantly, the gauchar or grazing land, useless.

"In the absence of a wall or a barrier, the pollutant has freely mixed with the water bodies here and has slowly started polluting both our soil and water," complains 23- year-old Nikul Kantharia.

He says ever since the mining project took off in the region, he, like most other villagers has been forced to take his livestock farther away to graze. "Nothing grows on the grazing land anymore and the grass closer to the dumpsite makes our cattle ill," Kantharia claims.

The mining work should have been stopped long ago

Prajapati and Bharat Jambucha, a well-known environmental activist and proponent of organic farming from the region, both point to blatant violations of environmental laws in the execution of mining work, with at least 12 violations cited by local officials. "But nothing happened after that. Mining work has continued without any hassles," Jambucha says. Among some glaring violations include the absence of a boundary wall around the dumping site and proper disposal of mining effluents.

The mining work has also continued without a most basic requirement – effluent treatment plant and sewage treatment plant at the mining site, Prajapati points out. "The mining work should have been stopped long ago. And the company should have been levied a heavy fine. But no such thing happened," he adds.

In some villages, the groundwater level has depleted over the past few years and villagers attribute it to the mining project. Women from Surkha village travel several kilometers outside for potable water. "This is new. Until five years ago, we had some water in the village and did not have to lug water every day," says Shilaben Kantharia.

The mine has affected the landscape around the villages

Sukanya Shantha/The Wire

Resisting lignite mining

The lignite mining project has a long history of resistance. Agricultural land, along with grazing land were acquired from the cluster of 12 adjoining villages in the coastal Ghogha taluka between 1994 and 1997. The locals estimate that villagers here lost anything between 40-100% of their land to the project. "We were paid a standard Rs 40,000 per bigha," Narendra, a local photographer, says.

The money, Narendra says, felt decent in 1994 but for those who had been dependent on this land, the years to come proved very challenging. "Several villagers have now taken a small patch of land in the neighboring villages on lease and are cultivating cotton and groundnut there," Narendra says.

They were dependent on others' land for work.

Bharat Jambucha says things get further complicated for the communities which were historically landless. "Most families belonging to the Dalit or other marginalized populations in the region never owned any land. They were dependent on others' land for work. Once villagers lost their land to the project, the landless were pushed out of the village," he adds. His organization, Prakrutik Kheti Juth, has been at the forefront, fighting for the rights of the villages affected in the lignite mining project.

In 2017, when the mining project finally took off, villagers from across 12 villages protested. The demonstration was disrupted after police used force and beat many protesters. More than 350 of them were booked for rioting.

The villagers, however, did not give up. Protests and hunger strikes have continued from time to time. A few villagers even sent a letter to the President of India threatening that they would commit suicide if the government did not return their land.

"We let them have our land for over 20 years," says Gohil.

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