June 21, 2010

One Child Too Many

Filed under: Uncategorized — theinkhorn @ 11:31 am

I step into the classroom and sitting there, as still as a corpse, is a skinny, munchkin-sized boy whose ridiculously pale face says he really doesn’t want to be here. That makes two of us, my subconscious mutters as I brace myself.

“You’re from China, yes?”

He nods.

“Which part?”

“… Wenzhou.”

My neurons race as I CTRL + F my brain for Wenzhou. Bam, highlighted.

“That’s in Zhejiang, yes?”

A microexpression of surprise flashes across his face before he nods and lets out a tiny smile. I’ve hit the right button. We proceed to converse for a bit. An intelligent lad for seven years of age. Sensible. Way too sensible. Alarms bells begin to pulse in my head. Something’s up.

“Pssst. I tell you secret, okay?” He whispers. “But you cannot tell anyone.”

“Okay, what is it?” I whisper back, knowing that it’s probably something stupid, like the colour of his socks.

“When we still in China, people come and try to catch me and my mother.” He says, with microexpressions of fear and sorrow showing in his eyes and mouth. Enough to convince me that he’s telling the truth.


“Because I have sister. And in China, you cannot have two children. So when they come, my mother take me and hide in the…” He struggles to find a word, and forms a triangular shape with his hands, the universal sign for “home”. I briefly consider telling him that the word he’s looking for is attic, but it would probably have distracted him from the story, so I nod to express understanding.

“Then she take me and my sister here.” He concludes the story with the folding of his arms.

Later on, I discover that his father was deported back to China, but not before impregnating his mother. Which leaves me to wonder how a pregnant woman with two kids and one to come would make enough money to send her daughter to IB and her son to tuition.

Regardless, she’s doing it. With a 8 month old foetus in her belly, she brings her boy to the centre every weekend, picks him up after that, sends him to art class, picks him up again, and brings him home, probably to a home-cooked meal she prepares in between her son’s classes. She cares enough to find out how her son performs. She knows her son well enough, and warns me of his hyperactivity, which I later discover to be very evident. And she manages all that in a foreign land she probably doesn’t know very much about, where she probably doesn’t have many friends, where sometimes, it’s a travesty to simply not be local.

Yes, our foreign policy is way too liberal and our government is exploiting that liberty in an attempt to remain in power. How much blame should fall on the government’s shoulders and how much on the immigrants’? Should we fault those who escape their shithole and enter ours in search of a slightly better life? Or should the ones who exploit them be held responsible?



  1. it is admirable to help others in need, however our own citizens come first. When housing, jobs and school places are in short supply, there is simply no excuse for the kind of immigration we are seeing here. We can feel sorry for the people who are worse off and help them in other ways, but there is no reason why we have to take them in.

    Comment by anon — June 22, 2010 @ 1:53 pm

  2. I think we as citizens have been pushed into xenophobia. Our government has turned us into a bunch of rednecks. The truth is, all of it could’ve been avoided if our government were competent enough to run this policy the way it should be ran. Alas, it is way too late now, and damage control hardly seems viable anymore.

    There is no logical reason to take them in, anon. Just like there is no logical reason for any country in the world to take us in. The problem is not with opening our doors to them. The problem is what happens after, something the government has always brushed off as irrelevant.

    Comment by theinkhorn — June 22, 2010 @ 2:05 pm

  3. There is nothing wrong with them wanting to find a better place for their families. In fact, that is only natural and to be expected. That’s why I don’t blame immigrants for wanting to come to Singapore in the belief that their children will have better lives here.

    However, the way all this has been managed has been horrible. At the end of the day, no matter how much we want to help others and share the good life, the government must make sure that none of this happens at the expense of our own citizens. After all, it is only right for a country to protect its own first. No one expects any less.

    Case in point: I lived in New Zealand for 4 years. I studied there and gained my degree there. But when it came to the end I wasn’t able to get a residency or work visa, because they have a strict “Kiwi jobs for Kiwis” attitude and it’s not so easy for foreigners to just stay. I still can’t, not until I get a higher qualification (Masters) and can show Immigration that I have what it takes to support myself and contribute to New Zealand without hurting any of the livelihoods of locals. Although it’s disappointing that I wasn’t able to stay on in a country I had fallen in love with, I still understand that policy because a country should – and is expected to – take care of its own.

    Comment by Kirsten — June 22, 2010 @ 5:52 pm

  4. New Zealand is a stellar example of what Singapore could be. Unfortunately, our leaders value financial growth over social growth. I believe if things were set straight and handled well at the start, we would be more than happy to take in foreigners such as the above-mentioned family. We would castigate less and sympathize more, which would make the country more attractive, which would in turn bring about financial growth. Talk about the wrong order of things.

    Comment by theinkhorn — June 23, 2010 @ 10:41 am

  5. Kirsten has made the point I wanted to say, that countries should accept foreigners only if they meet the criteria and do not hurt the livelihood of locals. SG is overcrowded and the foreigners that come in are taking jobs that citizens can and are doing. Other countries which do not have this constraint have good reason to take in immigrants, contrary to your point.

    It sucks to be born somewhere where life isn’t good but that does not entitle you to be accepted by a country that is better off. If we are concerned about these immigrants who come here in search of a better life, perhaps we should also extend that concern to our own people who are being displaced precisely because these immigrants came here looking for a better life.

    Comment by anon — June 23, 2010 @ 11:31 am

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