After puzzling locals and angering some Taiwanese, Singapore’s first lady today updated her dismissive reaction to word that Taiwan was donating face masks to the city with a thank-you note heavy on emojis but thin on sincerity.
Ho Ching, the CEO of a state investment company worth billions and wife to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, gave the much rosier public response just days after seeming to express reservations about Taiwan’s donation with a single word.
“To all our friends and friends of friends in Taiwan, a huge thank you to all that you have done, and please know that I’m forever grateful,” Ho revised her online reaction to read today.
That was many more words than it originally had two days ago, when it simply read “Errrr…”
The original post left some Singaporeans confused and many Taiwanese angry at what many saw as a rude response to Taiwan’s gesture.
Ho’s update today, while heavy on emojis and a largely incoherent thank you message to “friends and friends of friends in Taiwan,” did not directly address her original response and still managed to weave a little shade into her praise.
“We all know we are in this together as one world – and I’m totally grateful for everyone which has reached out, advised, pointed the way, and tried their best to help, sometimes successfully and sometimes not,” she said, cryptically.
To all our friends and friends of friends in Taiwan, a huge thank you to all that you have done, and…
Thousands have reacted to Ho Ching’s online post and online trolls have mocked her reaction by adding the caption “Errr..” in comments to her previous posts.
Taiwanese Facebook Allen Chiang said Ho was unappreciative and felt that the masks should be given to another country instead.
“Errr what? If Sg [doesn’t] need it, please reject our kindness and then we can donate to the country who really [appreciates it],” he wrote on Facebook.
“Whether you like it or not, you should say thank you for receiving the donation. As the Prime Minister’s wife, your response is impolite,” another named Stella Cheung said.
The episode began when Ho Ching shared an article by Taiwan News announcing the donation of a million masks to Singapore.
While Taiwanese sovereignty has emerged as a political flashpoint during the coronavirus outbreak, other politics seemed at play in explaining Ho’s catty reaction.
In January, Taiwan had banned export of face masks, which led to a subsidiary of the state holding company Ho leads, Temasek, to shift its face mask production back home to the city-state.
In Ho’s post, she expressed appreciation for countries that try to help one another. Then she added that she also forgives their mistakes, without elaborating further.
“But that sincere effort and thought, regardless of success or failure, is what I will treasure forever. And mistakes? Also forgiven, lah!” she added.
Taiwan reportedly relaxed its export ban last month to allow the export of cloth masks as of March 12. It’s also offering face masks and medical aid to other countries, according to the South China Morning Post.
Singapore and Taiwan’s foreign affairs ministries are discussing the donation of surgical face masks. When asked about Ho’s Facebook comment, a Taiwanese spokeswoman said that Singapore has responded “positively” to Taiwan’s offer despite what Ho thinks.
“The cordial relationship will not be affected by an individual’s personal views,” Taiwanese foreign affairs spokeswoman Joanne Ou told Focus Taiwan.
Some embarrassed Singaporeans thanked Taiwan on behalf of Ho.
“Thank you Taiwan. Do not be bothered by the ‘Errrr’. I find it kind of rude thou [sic] for all kind souls there. I love Taiwan,” Stella Chen wrote.
“What a disgrace! She [does] not represent Singapore.. [I] thank [T]aiwan for kindness and we [Singaporeans] appreciate the mask donated by the [T]aiwan government in this tough time we are facing,” Wong Wenhao said.
Addressing the negativity and criticism, Ho fell back on the usual calls for unity, saying people should come together to stop the pandemic instead of fighting one another – or in this case, her.
“Hugs, everyone, and stop trying to beat each other up in cyber space. It’s the covid that we should beat, not one by one, not country by country, not flag by flag, because the little bug doesn’t respect any of our prejudices and biases, hopes or fears. This bug can be beaten, when we all pull together as one, and do what we need to do,” Ho said.
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