SINGAPORE – About 350 people gathered at a park in Singapore on Thursday to protest against immigration policies that they say are too lax.
A small but growing number of discontented locals blame the higher cost of living on foreigners and have been lambasting the government for its so-called soft immigration policies.
Organized by activist Gilbert Goh, Thursday’s protest follows recent racial abuse heaped on a group of Filipinos on the island who were planning to celebrate their Independence Day at the city-state’s main shopping belt. Critics say they should hold their celebrations at the Philippine Embassy.
Goh criticized Singaporean authorities who had warned him Wednesday night that it would be illegal to deface a poster of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.
Public demonstrations are rare in Singapore, with the ruling People’s Action Party placing tight controls on protests.
Some protesters carried placards that read “Save our jobs” and “Give us back our Singapore.” Many chanted “Step down PAP and Step down Lee Hsien Loong.”
A woman in her 50s broke down in tears and said she had lost many of her “true blue Singaporeans” at work because they were replaced by “cheaper foreigners.”
“Please don’t post my photo. I am worried I will lose my job,” she said as she walked away from photographers.
Baey Yam Keng, a member of Parliament from the PAP, said that while such protests are rare in Singapore, they “debunk the perception that Singapore is sterile and oppresses dissenting voices.”
Just under 40 per cent of Singapore’s 5.4 million people are foreigners.