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May 30, 2017

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PM Lee warns against stereotyping after Chinese student outburst

SINGAPORE -- Singapore's prime minister warned against growing anti-immigrant sentiment inflamed by a Chinese student's insults, telling his countrymen Thursday to avoid stereotypes and not feel resentment toward foreigners.

Sun Xu, a student from China who was on a Singapore government scholarship, was fined last month by the National University of Singapore for calling the city-state's citizens "dogs" on his blog. Sun apologized, but was ordered to work three months of community service and had his scholarship revoked.

"We shouldn't because of one incident make that into an issue, that all immigrants are like that, or that all Singaporeans should feel like that toward non-Singaporeans," Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said in an interview on state-owned Channel NewsAsia.

The government in recent years has faced a growing backlash against a surge of foreigners, many of whom are from China, who now account for about a third of Singapore's workforce. Resentment toward the government's loose immigration policies helped lower the vote won by the ruling People's Action Party to its lowest level since independence in 1965 during parliamentary elections last May.

Since the election, the government has sought to quell discontent by pledging to favor Singaporeans in education and housing policies and tighten immigration requirements.

"As long as they contribute to the society, I don't mind foreigners," said Harllies Foo, a 52-year-old administrator. "The problem with the mainland Chinese is that they tend to speak loudly, which can be interpreted as being rude or aggressive."

About 74 percent of Singaporeans are ethnic Chinese, the descendants of immigrants who came to the island at the southern tip of the Malay peninsula over the last two centuries, mostly from southern China. About 13 percent of Singaporeans are Malay and 9 percent are Indian.

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