Video of ex-Singapore PM 'cautioning US-Taiwan ties' is doctored

An edited video of Singapore's former prime minister Lee Hsien Loong circulated in Facebook and TikTok posts that falsely claimed it shows him warning Taiwan against strengthening relations with the United States in opposition to China. The original clip in fact shows Lee giving a speech in 2019 in which he did not mention the city-state's relations with Taiwan. The Singapore prime minister's office said the video shared on social media was "fake".

The video, which appears to show Lee giving a speech in Mandarin, was shared on TikTok on June 26, 2024.

"The US will not win against China and the US cannot beat China, the Americans know this very well. Yet they are using the Philippines to create trouble for a potential conflict with China," he appears to say.

"A friend is not going to let a friend be destroyed in such a way in the face of tens of millions of displaced Ukrainians."

Traditional Chinese text overlaid on the video says: "Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, a word of caution to the Taiwanese."

Screengrab of the false post

The video circulated on Facebook and TikTok after Washington in June approved hundreds of millions of dollars in arms sales to Taiwan, as the self-ruling island sought to strengthen ties with friendly countries in the face of pressure from China.

Beijing claims Taiwan as part of its territory and has said it would never renounce the use of force to bring it under China’s control.

Taiwan's defence ministry said the arms purchase would allow Taiwan to respond quickly to enemy threats, referring to Beijing's "frequent military operations" around the self-ruling island.

The video also surfaced after a violent clash between Chinese and Philippine sailors in the disputed South China Sea.

It was the latest in a series of escalating confrontations between Beijing and Manila in the strategically located waterway, fuelling concerns that the United States -- Manila's mutual defence partner -- could be dragged into the dispute.

Singapore, which has strong security ties with Washington and vibrant economic relations with Beijing, previously said countries should not be made to choose between China and the United States.

Fabricated remarks

Lee wrote in a statement that "deepfake" videos shared online showed him "supposedly commenting on international relations, foreign leaders, and other subjects" (archived link). 

A spokesperson for the Singapore prime minister's office also told AFP that the video was "fake". 

The original video shows Lee giving a speech in 2019 to mark Singapore's National Day and was posted on YouTube by the Singaporean prime minister's office (archived link).

Below is a screenshot comparison between the edited video (left) and the original video (right):

Screenshot comparison between the edited video (left) and the original video (right)

Lee did not mention US foreign relations with Taiwan or the PhilippinesTa in the speech on August 18, 2019.

The official transcript of the speech issued by the Singaporean prime minister's office confirms this (archived link).

The edited video appears to originate from a Chinese social media account that regularly posts manipulated content.

The name of the account on Chinese platform Xiaohongshu, which translates as Across the Big World of AI, is overlaid on the video (archived link).

It has previously shared various manipulated videos using the images of public figures, as well as tutorials to make AI-generated videos (archived link).

Taiwanese fact-check organisations Mygopen and Taiwan FactCheck Center also fact-checked the video (archived link here and here).

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