Singapore, 9 September 2011 – Singapore Press Holdings is pleased to announce the launch of the Chinese edition of its best-selling book, “Lee Kuan Yew: Hard Truths to keep Singapore going”.
The English edition was launched on 21 January 2011 and has to date sold more than 90,000 copies. It has been number one on the non-fiction bestsellers list for more than six months. The book is based on 16 interviews with Mr Lee, during which he engaged with Straits Times journalists on a range of issues, from the future of Singapore’s political system, immigration and foreign talent, the rise of China and India, cultural and linguistic identity, to climate change. He also spoke at length about his family, children and grandchildren.
Mr Lee said he wanted the book to be translated into Chinese to cater to the needs of older Singaporeans, many of whom do not read English. Non-Singaporean Chinese might also be interested in reading the book, he said, including those in mainland China, Taiwan and Hong Kong.
The title of the book "Hard Truths to keep Singapore going" is a reference to Mr Lee’s remark, repeated several times in the interviews, that there are hard truths or facts about Singapore that cannot be changed, and that make it critical for Singapore to have a stable society and strong, effective government.
In a recent interview ahead of the launch of the Chinese edition, Mr Lee said of the central message in the book: “Singapore is no ordinary country. It is small and lacks natural resources. Originally, it did not even have its own water supply. It was not easy for such a country to develop into the city state it is today. If you had pursued wrong policies, it would have been very easy to destroy this place.”
Mr Robin Hu, Senior Executive Vice-President of Singapore Press Holdings’ Chinese Newspapers and Newspaper Services, oversaw the translation of Hard Truths into Chinese. It took six months. Mr Hu said that since the publication of the English edition in January, there have been numerous requests for a Chinese edition.
Describing Hard Truths as a story book, Mr Hu said that Mr Lee, as the main story teller, speaks “forcefully, directly and sincerely about Singapore’s past, present and future”. As for the questions put to Mr Lee by a team of seven Straits Times journalists, led by Straits Times Editor Han Fook Kwang, Mr Hu said these are also questions that every reader will have on the subjects covered in the book. “This book is a conversation between Mr Lee Kuan Yew and different generations of Singaporeans, past, present and future,” he said in Mandarin.
The Chinese edition of Hard Truths will be launched by Mr Lee on his 88th birthday, on 16 September, at the Grand Corpthorne Waterfront Hotel, Singapore.
The Hard Truths project began in August 2008. Reporters Rachel Lin and Robin Chan from The Straits Times did considerable preliminary research, poring over Mr Lee’s past writings, and books and articles on and about Mr Lee and his thinking. Mr Han, together with Deputy Editor Zuraidah Ibrahim worked with Review Editor Chua Mui Hoong, Deputy Political Editor Lydia Lim and Sunday Times Editor Ignatius Low, to distill Mr Lee’s diverse ideas and insights into key themes and questions to be posed. The team also organised focus group discussions with young Singaporeans and academics, to find out what questions they would like posed to Mr Lee.
Mr Han, who led the project, said: “This is an important book because it's the first time Mr Lee's views are being subjected to such extensive questioning and scrutiny in 32 hours of interviews with seven journalists from The Straits Times. He gave us unprecedented access and time because he wanted to reach out especially to younger Singaporeans who may be unconvinced whether his views are still relevant in this day and age.”
Said Ms Zuraidah: “The book looks at issues that have emerged as hot-button topics in recent years, such as foreign talent, inclusive growth, rising religiosity, and climate change. To get a feel of the issues that preoccupy Singaporeans, the team spoke to more than 200 people, including many from the younger generation. From there, we came up with a strong mix of questions, reflective of the dilemmas our society finds itself confronting.”
The interviews began in December 2008 and continued into October 2009. They were all conducted at the Istana, beginning in the late afternoon and lasting for over two hours. The SPH team took another nine months to write and edit the chapters.
The result is a book that offers readers a first-hand glimpse into the thinking and views of Mr Lee. Each of the book’s 11 chapters starts off with an introductory segment that puts an issue in context, and then goes into a Q&A format. This format allows readers to follow the cut and thrust of the conversations with Mr Lee.
The book comes with an exclusive DVD of video footage culled from the interviews. The DVD that accompanies the Chinese edition has subtitles in Chinese. Explaining the team's decision to include the DVD, Straits Times Press Executive Director Shirley Hew said: “Seeing and hearing the cut and thrust of the conversations at the Istana with Mr Lee in the DVD is definitely a plus for the whole book package.
“Every pregnant pause from Mr Lee, interspersed with every incisive question from our writers, truly makes the whole read much more rewarding. The book and DVD set also makes for a wonderful gift and keepsake on the history and the making of Singapore."
Former United States President Bill Clinton said of the book: “In this engaging series of new interviews, Mr Lee Kuan Yew candidly imparts his wisdom, as well as his fears, as he contemplates Singapore’s role in a rapidly changing, and profoundly challenging, global society. An important addition to Lee Kuan Yew’s legacy, Lee Kuan Yew: Hard Truths to keep Singapore going illuminates his conviction that a prosperous, sustainable future must be built upon the lessons of the past.”
Former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, an old friend of Mr Lee, added: “The 32 hours of interviews that Mr Lee Kuan Yew gave are unprecedented in their candour and in the variety of issues discussed.”
President of the Republic of Korea Lee Myung-bak said of Mr Lee: “Lee speaks out his mind with clear, candid and forceful words that will surely have strong and lasting impact on the readers.”
Former Malaysian Finance Minister Daim Zainuddin said: “Lee Kuan Yew remains, as always, passionate about Singapore, its citizens, its future and its relationship with its neighbours. That passion has driven him to make Singapore vibrant and relevant, and towards this he is committed to shaping the minds of young Singaporeans. This latest book illuminates his thinking that is bound to raise discussions about the future of Singapore.”
Younger Singaporeans also praised the book. David Zhang, 24, co-founder of an Internet start-up, found the Q&A format lively, candid and genuine, adding: “The focus on income inequality and his views on egalitarianism and foreign talent strike a very hot spot, especially among Singapore’s youth.”
Julia Chan-Lee, assistant human resource manager, 30, said: “To someone who has grown up abroad, this is a fascinating introduction to Mr Lee’s life and ideas. The dialogue made me feel a part of the conversation.”
Undergraduate Chan Yuping, 23, said: “Mr Lee recognises that our generation is full of individuals who are not afraid to express themselves through their choice of music, clothing or sexuality. He seems to have softened with age and the understanding that the times change, inevitably so."
Public relations consultant Nanny Eliana, 32, said: “It’s an absorbing read. The writers weave in Mr Lee’s personal anecdotes to reflect his own vulnerability as a person. There’s a human quality to the copy that I did not quite expect a Lee Kuan Yew memoir to have.”
The book will be available at leading bookstores for $39.90 (inclusive of GST) from 5pm on the launch date. It can be purchased online from the Straits Times Press Online Bookstore: www.stpressbooks.com.sg
from 16 September at 5pm. The English edition of Hard Truths is also available at bookstores and at www.stpressbooks.com.sg
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About Singapore Press Holdings Ltd
Incorporated in 1984, main board-listed Singapore Press Holdings Ltd (SPH) is Southeast Asia’s leading media organisation, engaging minds and enriching lives across multiple languages and platforms.
Newspapers, Magazines and Book Publishing
In Singapore, SPH publishes 18 newspaper titles in four languages. Every day, 3 million individuals or 77 per cent of people above 15 years old, read one of SPH's news publications. SPH also publishes and produces more than 100 magazine titles in Singapore and the region, covering a broad range of interests from lifestyle to information technology. SPH's subsidiaries, Straits Times Press and Focus Publishing, produce quality books and periodicals in English and Chinese.
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Beyond print, the Internet editions of SPH newspapers enjoy over 265 million page views with 18 million unique visitors every month. Apart from SPH AsiaOne portal, SPH's online and new media initiatives include an online marketplace for products, services and employment, ST701; Stomp, omy.sg, and The Straits Times RazorTV.
SPH has a 20 per cent stake in MediaCorp TV Holdings Pte Ltd, which operates free-to-air channels 5, 8 and U, and a 40 per cent stake in MediaCorp Press Limited, which publishes the free newspaper, Today. In the radio business, SPH has an 80 per cent stake in SPH UnionWorks Pte Ltd, which operates entertainment stations Radio 100.3 in Chinese and 91.3FM in English.
Events and Outdoor Advertising
SPH’s events subsidiary Sphere Exhibits organises innovative consumer and trade events and exhibitions. In addition, SPH has ventured into out-of-home (OOH) advertising through its wholly-owned subsidiary, SPH MediaBoxOffice Pte Ltd, Singapore’s leading Digital Out-of-Home advertising company.
SPH owns and manages Paragon, the prime retail and office complex in the heart of Orchard Road, Singapore's main shopping belt. Its latest retail development, The Clementi Mall, started business operations in 2011. SPH's wholly-owned subsidiary, Times Development Pte Ltd, has also developed a 43-storey upmarket residential condominium, Sky@eleven, at Thomson Road.