February 6, 2024
BEIJING – China’s Foreign Ministry has declined to comment on the case of Singaporean businessman Philip Chan, citing non-interference in the domestic affairs of another country.
Mr Chan, 59, a naturalised Singaporean born in Hong Kong, was served notice on Feb 2 of the Singapore authorities’ intention to designate him as a politically significant person under the Republic’s foreign interference laws.
In response to a query from The Straits Times, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson said on Feb 5 that Mr Chan, as president of the Hong Kong Singapore Business Association, has contributed to the promotion of cooperation between Hong Kong and Singapore.
“China has always refrained from interfering in the internal affairs of other countries and has no intention of commenting on this specific matter,” added the spokesperson in a written response.
Mr Chan resigned from the Hong Kong Singapore Business Association, effective from Feb 2, the association said on Feb 5 in response to ST queries.
He was deemed to have shown susceptibility to being influenced by foreign actors and willingness to advance their interests, said Singapore’s Ministry of Home Affairs on Feb 2.
The ministry did not link Mr Chan to any particular country.
He was served a notice under the Foreign Interference (Countermeasures) Act, or Fica, a law passed in 2021 to deal with foreign interference in domestic politics.
Mr Chan is a real estate investor by profession and president of the Kowloon Club, which helps new immigrants settle into Singapore.
In March 2023, he was invited to attend the annual session of China’s top political advisory body, the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, as an observer under the category of an “overseas Chinese representative”.
The episode has renewed debate on Chinese influence in Singapore.
Mr Chan has called attention to the need to “tell the China story well” in previous interviews and public comments, as well as for people to shed their prejudices towards China.
Under Fica requirements, as a designated politically significant person, Mr Chan would have to make annual disclosures to the authorities of political donations of $10,000 or more that he has received and accepted, and declare his foreign affiliations and any migration benefits.