A Supercar Crash Enrages Singaporeans

At 4 a.m. on May 12, a red Ferrari supercar driven by a Chinese national named Ma Chi ran a red light, slamming into a taxicab at the corner of Singapore's Queen Victoria Street and Rochor Road, killing the 31 year-old driver, the taxi driver and his passenger, a 41-year-old Japanese woman.

The implications of the crash have continued to mushroom, kicking off a massive public outcry both in Singapore and China. In Singapore, it has raised the already festering anger level at the enormous numbers of foreign nationals that have entered the country, as well as the ease with which foreign nationals, especially rich ones, can gain permanent residency. The crash and its aftermatn have become a factor in a by-election scheduled for Saturday in the Hougang district of the island republic, for a seat that has traditionally been held by the opposition..

Ma was described as an “expatriate financial advisor from Sichuan,” his pregnant wife told Singaporean media, adding that she didn’t know his 20-year-old companion. a mainland Chinese woman who died in hospital later. . Ma had purchased a luxury S$3 million condominium on the island nation’s east coast, she said, adding that he also owned a US$400,000 BMW as well as the limited-edition Ferrari 590GTO, which he was said to have bought for his 30th birthday. He was said to be applying for permanent residency when he was killed.

Singapore’s blogs have erupted with rumors. The dead man was first rumored to have been linked a fugitive Chongqing mafia boss named Ma Yong who fled to Guangzhou in 2007, and that he was involved in money-laundering in Hong Kong, to the tune of several millions a month.

Last Saturday, a China-based journalist, Cao Guoxing, wrote that Ma Chi was the son of Ma Kai, a high-ranking state councilor and state council secretary general, the president of the National School of Administration of the Western Region Development of the State Council Leading Group Office.

Cao’s posting of Ma’s supposed identity, on the Chinese micro-blogging service Weibo, was taken down within five minutes. There has been no confirmation in state media that the two were related. However, alert Chinese netizens republished it widely, kicking off outrage in China over Ma as a scion of the fu er dai, the rich second generation who have done little to earn their riches. He was described as a spoiled rich brat and a disgrace to China, according to local media. The parternity has since been denied by Ma Kai.

Either way – money launderer or son of a high-ranking official or just a rich businessman -- Ma has been reviled in both countries. He was said to have been reeking of alcohol when his body was removed from the wreckage. Comparisons have been made to Bo Guagua, the son of the ousted Chongqing party boss, Bo Xilai. Guagua was forced to deny he owned a Ferrari, only to be reported to have received three speeding tickets in a Porsche in the United States. Numerous news stories have described Guagua as carrying on a lavish lifestyle while a student at Harvard University.

The Chinese internet has been filled with articles about the fu er dai, with stories feeding into the mainstream press as well. Yesterday, Xinhua reported that authorities had detained the 15-year-old son of a general for beating a couple and damaging their car. In 2010, a 22-year-old youth was sentenced to six years in prison after he ran over a student, killing him, and saying “"Sue me if you dare. My father is Li Gang," a senior police officer.

Hundreds of locals have taken to the airwaves in Singapore, denouncing rich foreigners for racing on the streets of the tightly regulated city, charging that foreigners are pushing up living and property costs. That has extended out to all foreigners, who are said to be stealing jobs from the locals, overtaxing the transport system and causing other problems. Mainland Chinese are at the forefront of the attacks. Two months before Ma’s accident, according to Agence France Presse, a Malaysian cleaner at Changi Airport was killed by a taxi hijacked by a Chinese worker.

Singapore has always been identified with immigration, since the time it was a colony established by the British, drawing workers form China, India and the Malay archipelago, demographers say. However, in the last decade, it has picked up dramatically as a result of government policy. The non-resident population has increased at an unprecedented pace since the turn of the century, accounting for 25.7 percent of the population according to the 2010 census, with the nonresident population growing at an annual 19 percent rate while the resident population was growing at just 1.7 percent.

Lee Kuan Yew, the founder of the Singaporean state, told Chinese clan leaders in January 2011 that the declining birthrate made it necessary to remain open to new immigrants. Despite heroic efforts by the government to raise the birthrate, Deputy Prime Minister Wong Kan Seng in a press release from the Prime Minister’s Office, said Singapore's total fertility rate had sunk to a historic low of 1.16 in 2010, down from 1.22 in 2009, and well below the replacement level of 2.1.

Singapore, a Chinese island in a Malay Muslim sea between Indonesia and Malaysia, has always been concerned about keeping up the proportion of Chinese Singaporeans. Even Malays, however, have a total fertility rate of 1.65 per woman of childbearing age, and Indians are even lower than Chinese at 1.13, according to the press release.

'So we need young immigrants,” Lee said according to the press release. “Otherwise, our economy will slow down, like the Japanese economy. We will have a less dynamic and less thriving Singapore. This is not the future for our children and grandchildren.'

Hence, he said, the need to welcome immigrants and help them integrate into mainstream Singapore society:

“The first generation will take some time to integrate, but their children will be completely Singaporean,” he said. “'I have met some such students in our schools: They serve national service and marry Singaporeans. They will increase our population and talent pool. Singapore will be vibrant and prosperous, not declining and ageing.”

Lee, however, apparently didn’t count on immigrants like Ma Chi.