Friday, 20 March 2015

Where "forgotten heroes" are born - Chinese schools in Singapore

This year, the PAP government celebrates the 50th year since Singapore was forced out of Malaysia. On the news and television, they say that one man Lee Kuan Yew and his People's Action Party helped the country survive against the odds. They declare loudly, "Without Lee Kuan Yew and PAP, there would be no Singapore."

The irony is that this same Lee Kuan Yew was the reason why Singapore was chased out of Malaysia in the first place. This same man would later turn against the Chinese community after they helped him and his faction of English-speaking PAP men climb to power.

After World War II, Singapore was a centre of Chinese learning and culture. Singapore's Chinese schools provided full primary, secondary and tertiary education for all. Nanyang University then was the only Chinese university in South East Asia. Even Lee admits that Chinese students back then were bright, passionate and patriotic unlike the English-educated students of their time.

A senior from Chinese High School recalls a memorable incident showing the burning patriotic spirit of the Chinese students:

"我是于1949年3、4月间来到当时东南亚华人的最高学府--新加坡华侨中学就读初一的,时年14岁多,并且是寄宿生,每天24小时学习、运动、吃饭到睡觉都在这所校园里度过。 [Translation: I came to the highest standard of Chinese education in South East Asia - Chinese High School in March or April 1949. I attended boarding school, so I spent 24 hours in school studying, exercising, eating and sleeping.]

当时学校的氛围良好,不仅环境清幽,空气清新,绿树小草,郁郁葱葱,令人心旷神怡,而且,学习风气很盛,体育和课外活动多姿多彩,宿舍区的高音喇叭课余时间不停的播放世界著名的经典乐趣,陶冶心灵,尤其是有一般进步思潮在校园里公开和秘密的传播,像磁铁般吸引着我。尽管其时英皇宣布紧急状况态令未满一年,马公和左派运动遭到残酷镇压,白色恐怖阴霾密布,但是,小小年纪的我,由于受到在小延安美称的老家--先达新思想新文化的启蒙,以及大姐毅然决然在全中国解放前夕,就瞒着父母返回他眷恋的祖国参加工作的影响,对学校这种氛围,觉得很受用,并为之倾倒。 [Translation: The school atmosphere then was not only refreshing and filled with greenery. There were many activities for students, and famous classical music from around the world played in between classes. There was a spirit of progress that attracted me like a magnet. Even though the British had declared the Emergency Ordinance less than a year ago to suppress the Malayan Communist Party and left-wing groups, I thoroughly enjoyed the air of progressive thinking in school. I had been influenced by my old home town, which was known as "Little Yan'an" for its progressive spirit, and by my eldest sister, who secretly returned to China without telling our parents on the eve of its liberation.]

还记得,1949年10月1日,中华人民共和国成立的那一天早上,当所有的寄宿生醒来齐聚操场,准备按平时习惯,跟着宿监和体育老师李异南做体操时,没料到抬头一望,在正对面小山岗一棵大树上,一面色彩鲜艳的五星红旗在迎风飘扬,令同学们热血沸腾,吐气扬眉,虽然,那一天我们不能亲耳聆听毛主席在开国大典上向全中国和全世界人民高声宣布:“中国人民从此站起来了!”的激越声调,也不能亲眼目睹中国历史上具有世界意思的一次伟大的激动人心的热烈场面。[Translation: I remember the day when the People's Republic of China was established on 1 October 1949. The boarding students gathered at the assembly point and were about to go for their exercise. To our surprise, someone had hung a five star red flag on a big tree at a small hill facing the students. Even though we were not there in person to witness Chairman Mao declare that "The Chinese have stood up!" to the world, this incident greatly raised the spirits of the students.]

也是在1949年10月6日的中秋节,南洋女中和华侨中学的寄宿生打破男女界限,联合举行了一次庆中秋联欢晚会。在这个为时约2小时,别开生面,兴味盎然,精彩纷呈,高潮迭起的晚会上,两校百多名男女宿舍生完全沉潜在热烈欢快的气氛当中,忘却了“举头望明月,低头思故乡”的思乡情怀,也没有古人那种“人生得意须尽欢,莫使金罇空对月,天生我材必有用······”的豪情壮志,但是,在尽欢而散之前,全体同学在高班同学引领下引吭高歌:“你是灯塔,照耀着黎明前的海洋,你是舵手,掌握着航行的方向。英勇的中国共产党,你就是核心,你就是方向,我们永远跟着你走,人类一定解放。我们永远跟着你走,人类一定解放。”这句激奋人心的歌声,响彻校园的夜空,悠悠岁月六十多个春秋过去,依然清晰地索绕耳际;此情此景,依然深刻地印在我的脑海里,永世难忘! [Translation: Also on 6 October 1949, Nanyang Girls and Chinese High boarding students held a 2 hour combined Mid-Autumn festival dinner. Although the students did not recite poems, the senior students led us to sing this song at the end of the dinner: "You are the lighthouse shining on the ocean before dawn. You are the oarsman controlling our direction. Courageous Communist Party of China, you are the core and the direction. We will follow you forever. Mankind will surely be free. We will follow you forever. Mankind will surely be free." Although more than 60 spring and autumn festivals have passed, I remember clearly the sounds of our voices filling the night air and the touching scene that night.]

Indeed many "forgotten" pioneer leaders came from the Chinese schools of that time, especially Chinese High School and Chung Cheng High School. Selfless, fiery, dedicated men like Lim Chin Siong, Fong Swee Suan, Chiam Chong Chian, Ng Mengqiang, Fong Chong Pik, and Chia Thye Poh were the rising political stars of their time. Many of these leaders would later suffer detention under the ISA because they posed a threat to Lee Kuan Yew and his PAP.

Still, Lee knew that the PAP would need the help of the Chinese community who formed 75% of the Singapore population and at least 45% of Malaysia at the time. They allied themselves with the Malayan Communist Party and left-wing groups during the 1959 elections, who were in control of the biggest grassroots movements of that time - the students and workers movements.

Even though the students and the workers helped the PAP win the 1959 elections, the PAP saw the bright, spirited Chinese students as a threat to them. So the PAP decided to destroy the flourishing Chinese education and Chinese culture in Singapore. They did this by continuing the hated education policies of the British imperialists, which slowly poisoned the minds of the Singapore people and led them astray from their proud heritage and culture.

In the 70s and 80s, the PAP warned Chinese parents that there was no future in Chinese schools and convinced them that only an English education would give their children a bright future. They also set up government vernacular schools like Dunman High to steal students away from Chinese schools. They wanted to cripple Chinese education by stripping Chinese teachers of their jobs and denying good paying positions to Chinese students in government. All this so that desperate and poor Singaporeans would send their children to English schools instead.

The PAP later arrested many journalists working for local Chinese newspapers and Chinese school students whose only crimes were to perform their patriotic duty by opposing the PAP's hated policies. Then in 1980, Lee Kuan Yew closed down Nanyang University with the excuse that its education quality was too low. In his memoirs, Lee even said he regretted not closing down the university earlier! By 1987, the last of the Chinese schools closed its gates for good. 

Within 28 years, the PAP had succeeded in killing Chinese education and culture in Singapore. Today, even the physical buildings of the Chinese schools in Singapore have been torn down in the name of "progress". The death of Chinese schools and the persecution of Chinese community leaders in Singapore is evidence of the cunning and opportunistic nature of Lee Kuan Yew, a man who Tunku Abdul Rahman of Malaysia said cannot be "trusted as politician".

If we are to truly celebrate SG50 this year, may we all remember the sacrifices made by the Chinese community and its fiery leaders, even as the PAP leaders desperately want us to "forget".

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