Hong Kong x Singapore – a tale of two modern cities

By August 6, 2019Current

TL;DR – Singapore, punching well above our weight yet again.

Hong Kong has been in the news internationally for all the wrong reasons.

Hong Kong, the city often compared with Singapore, has entered its ninth consecutive week of protests. The tension in the city has escalated sharply. On 5 August, transport in the city was even brought to a standstill. Almost 100 outbound and 100 inbound flights were cancelled as staff from airlines like Cathay Pacific went on strike.

Protesters also blocked key roads and stopped trains throughout the city.

Riot police in Hong Kong fired tear gas and rubber bullets at protesters in at least five locations as demonstrators staged a daylong citywide strike during which two cars rammed the crowds.


In contrast, Singapore is recognised for its stability

As a result of the turmoil, private bankers are being flooded with inquiries from investors in Hong Kong who are worried about the long-term effects of the political crisis in the Chinese city. A major Asian wealth manager said it has received a large flow of new money in Singapore from Hong Kong over recent weeks.

And it’s not difficult to understand why.

So far, Singapore has proven to be a stable society. The most recent bad news out of Singapore is probably the brouhaha over the stupid “brownface” E-Pay advertisement and the rap by Preetipls and her brother. And that will probably blow over soon, and I personally have faith that we will work towards a better society, together. In fact, Singapore is so stable, and considered such a safe harbour, where the rule of law is so strong, that we are well-regarded internationally as a legal hub.

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And our status as a legal hub is so well-regarded internationally that the United Nations (UN) General Assembly decided to name the UN Convention on International Settlement Agreements Resulting from Mediation, adopted by the UN General Assembly on 20 Dec 2019, after Singapore. This is the first treaty concluded under the auspices of the UN to be named after our little dot.

The treaty, also known as the Singapore Convention on Mediation, will allow countries to enforce mediated settlements across borders, a piece of the mediation puzzle that has so far been missing.

Singapore Convention for Mediation (via)


Come 7 August, the Singapore Convention will officially open for signature, and global superpowers like USA and China have indicated that they will sign it. We expect some 54 countries to sign this, and the countries include Australia, Brunei, Japan, South Korea, Switzerland, Uganda and Vanuatu.

Why is this convention named after Singapore?

Mr Adrian Tan, partner, litigation and dispute resolution, and head of intellectual property and technology, media and telecommunications, at TSMP Law Corporation explained in this article:

“Internationally, countries recognise that Singapore leads the way in promoting this friendlier and kinder way of dispute resolution.”

“For example, we have set up the Singapore International Mediation Centre (SIMC) to facilitate cross-border disputes. We have the Singapore International Mediation Institute to train and set standards for mediators in the region.

This is on top of Singapore’s growing reputation as a holistic dispute resolution hub, whether the process involves litigation, arbitration or mediation.”

Maxwell Chambers Suites reopened in 2019 after two years of restoration works. This dispute resolution complex houses 11 international institutions, 20 disputes chambers and practices from 11 countries. SIMC is also located here. (via)


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Mr Tan also said, “The Singapore International Arbitration Centre handles one of the world’s largest administered caseloads, receiving more than 400 cases last year, compared with the London Court of International Arbitration’s 317.

And earlier this year, Singapore and China inked a deal to establish an international mediation panel here to resolve disputes arising from projects under China’s Belt and Road Initiative.”

Not bad for a little red dot

This is another example of Singapore punching well above our weight. Having such a convention named after Singapore, and being a legal hub to handle dispute resolution and mediation cases from all over the world adds to Singapore’s continued relevance to the world.

That’s an important point to reiterate. Even though we are a tiny little red dot, we are still relevant to the whole world.

And, as Mr Tan had pointed out, it’s fortuitous that the Singapore Convention will be open for signature on 7 August. It’s a sweet birthday present from the UN member states to Singapore. It’s due recognition to Singapore’s big voice in calling for international disputes to be settled according to the law.

So as we near our 54th National Day, I think that we can be grateful that, while it may not be the best of times for Singapore, at least it’s not the worst of times like what Hong Kong is going through right now.


(L-R) Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam, PM Lee Hsien Loong and UN Asst Secretary-General for Legal Affairs Stephen Mathias at the signing ceremony on Aug 7, 2019 (via)

(Updated 7 Aug 2019) In a show of support for the Singapore Convention on Mediation, ministers and senior officials from 70 countries attended the signing ceremony and conference at Shangri-La Hotel on Wednesday. A total of 46 countries signed the treaty today.

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Singapore was the first to put ink to paper for the treaty, as represented by Law and Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam.




(Featured image via)


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Joey Wee

Author Joey Wee

I am nice, most of the time!

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