A scathing opinion piece lambasting Xi Jinping, published by a Singaporean newspaper, did not escape the attention of netizens on Weibo, who clandestinely lauded its contents. The article, titled “The Economy Is The Problem, Its Root Is Politics,” was penned by Hong Kong businessman and writer Lew Mon-hung. A former member of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference and previously a staunch pro-China figure, he squarely laid the blame for China’s present economic challenges on Xi Jinping, the pervasive cult of personality around him and the Party’s inability to implement political reforms including democratization.
Had this piece been published in most overseas Chinese-language media outlets, its impact might have been relatively muted. However, its appearance in Singapore’s leading Chinese-language newspaper, LianheZaobao, raised eyebrows. The paper, often perceived as pro-China, has recently come under scrutiny for seemingly echoing Beijing’s falsehoods and featuring opinion columns by active Party officials without disclosing their affiliations, according to an investigation by The Washington Post and The Australian Strategic Policy Institute. Although accessible within China, LianheZaobao censors content on its mainland-version site.
The publication of this critical opinion piece represents a significant departure from the newspaper’s usual editorial stance. Nonetheless, it’s not the first instance of LianheZaobao printing Lew Mon-hung’s essays that criticize China. Over recent years, he has penned articles expressing his opposition to the now-abandoned zero-COVID policy and his disillusionment with excessive politicization. As of May 2022, he had also evolved into a vocal critic of China’s ongoing support for Russia despite its invasion of Ukraine.
Considering the fact that Moscow initiated the invasion of Kyiv, rather than the other way around, it is imperative for us to take a clear stance by identifying Russia as the aggressor, condemning their invasion, and distancing ourselves from their actions. Only through this approach can we pursue a path of peace and development, avoiding the risk of international isolation and sanctions. Failing to do so would render slogans like “Reform and Opening,” “The Great Rejuvenation of the Chinese Nation,” and “The Chinese Dream” empty and meaningless. A nation that loses its core values will undoubtedly face scorn and exclusion from the global community—it becomes a nation without hope.
Lew’s latest essay for LianheZaobao breaks new ground in its forcefulness and directness, both for the author and the publication. With headings such as “Sino- American Friendship as a Catalyst for Economic Growth” and “Unrestrained Absolute Power as the Ultimate Corruption,” Lew squarely targets the “socialist fundamentalism” inherent in Xi Jinping’s economic strategy. He contends that the adoption of the zero- COVID approach was a major political misstep comparable to the Cultural Revolution,
and he cautions that unless the Party swiftly undertakes democratic reforms and guarantees freedom of expression, even more significant upheavals are likely. Key sections of Lew’s essay have been translated by CDT:
A critical backdrop to the recent years of economic downturn involves certain individuals violating the principles set out in the Second Resolution on History, which aimed to “prohibit the cult of personality in any form.” This violation is evident in the promotion of ideas such as “unquestioning loyalty is the only loyalty” and the elevation of “one position as the highest authority, setting the tone,” which have only served to intensify the cult of personality.
The three years marked by the coronavirus pandemic provide a telling example. The period witnessed an overwhelming politicization of all matters. Discussions surrounding public health policy, originally rooted in scientific considerations, were unjustifiably transformed into a clash between different systems. Beyond the direct impact of the virus, the adoption of the unscientific mantra “persist unwaveringly with zero-COVID” led to a secondary catastrophe. This catastrophe included arbitrary lockdowns of cities, highways, and borders; the cessation of work, production, and economic activities; disruptions in corporations’ production, distribution, and retail capabilities; and a disregard for people’s rights, personal freedoms, dignity, as well as their right to residence and private property. The repercussions were severe, causing significant damage to the industrial production and supply chains of what is known as “the world’s factory.” This situation ranks as the third most disruptive event in modern Chinese history, trailing only the calamities of the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution. The economic losses were substantial, civil liberties were eroded, and the government’s credibility saw a sharp decline—with no end to the crisis in sight.
The essay stirred up a notable reaction within China. On Weibo, one user posted, “Lew Mon-hung’s essay critical of the Party is definitely worth a read.” Another user commented, “That essay by Lew Mon-hung is quite straightforward, haha.” Some took a more indirect approach with their comments: “I recommend an excellent essay from LianheZaobao, dated August 21, 2023. Author: Lew Mon-hung” and “Thumbs up for that LianheZaobao essay.” A different Weibo user remarked, “The essay in LianheZaobao offers a genuine understanding of China and its required solution.” All of these comments, along with screenshots of the essay, were subject to censorship. Moreover, searches for “LianheZaobao” on Weibo yielded only outcomes from “Blue V” accounts associated with the Party-state.