Integration differentiates Singapore Chinese: PM Lee
He says it differentiates group from other Chinese societies
Chinese Singaporeans have integrated into a larger, multiracial whole and become distinct from Chinese communities elsewhere, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.
In his annual Chinese New Year message, PM Lee highlighted how this integration differentiates Singapore Chinese from the Chinese societies of China, Hong Kong and Taiwan, as well as overseas Chinese minorities in South-east Asia and the West.
But identity, like tradition, is dynamic, he noted.
The Singapore Chinese identity will continue to evolve as new immigrants join and new generations come of age, he said, adding that they will enrich Singapore's cultural heritage with their different life experiences and perspectives.
At the same time, he expressed his hope that the new arrivals will adjust their social norms to the local context and embrace uniquely Singaporean cultural habits over time, just as earlier generations did.
"This is the way for the Chinese community to stay vibrant, and for Singapore to be open, dynamic and resilient for many years to come," PM Lee said.
The Prime Minister recounted in his message how Chinese immigrants who made Singapore their home had developed their own unique rituals and traditions, which were passed down the generations.
"The way we celebrate Chinese New Year reflects how the Singapore Chinese identity has evolved and emerged over the years."
Noting that Singapore is commemorating its bicentenary this year, PM Lee said the arrival of Stamford Raffles 200 years ago marked a crucial turning point in the country's history, including for the Chinese community.
This was because large-scale immigration started only after Raffles established a free port here, with Chinese immigrants coming from as nearby as Malacca and as far away as Canton, Swatow and Amoy to seek their fortunes.
Many immigrants were too poor to travel back home for Chinese New Year, and instead recreated whatever traditions they could when celebrating here, PM Lee said.
Today, Singapore Chinese do lohei - tossing raw fish salad - to express their hopes and wishes for the coming year.
When visiting friends and relatives, they also enjoy pineapple tarts, kueh lapis spekkoek, and kueh bangkit cookies - a reflection of the South-east Asian heritage of the Straits Chinese.
While the first few Chingay Parades featured mainly Chinese cultural items, PM Lee said Chingay has since grown into a celebration for people of all races and ages.
The involvement of all races adds a special joy and richness to the festivities, PM Lee said, and reflects Singapore's unique multicultural society.
"We see this happening also when the Chinese join in Hari Raya celebrations with our Muslim friends, and Deepavali festivities with our Hindu friends," he added.
PM Lee wished all Singaporeans a Happy Chinese New Year.
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