Malaysia is independent, says minister who earlier termed Beijing ‘big brother’

Beijing: Malaysia is an independent country, said Malaysian Foreign Minister Hishammuddin Hussein after facing criticism over his remarks that he view Beijing as a “big brother”.

In a statement, Hussein clarified that the remarks were directed at his counterpart Wang Yi. Clips of Hishammuddin’s remarks – made during a press conference on Thursday following a bilateral meeting in Fujian – did not go well with Malaysia social media users and diplomatic observers, South China Morning Post reported.

In the video, Hishammuddin said: “You will always be my elder brother”. In response, Wang Yi agrees off-microphone, saying in English: “We are brothers”.

The Malaysian foreign minister wrote on Twitter that he “was not referring to our bilateral relations, as strong [Malaysia-China] ties are based on mutual trust and equality.

“Respecting that Wang Yi is older, and a more senior foreign minister, hence ‘elder brother’ to me personally. Being respectful does not signify weakness,” Hishammuddin wrote.

“Rest assured that Malaysia remains independent, principled and pragmatic in terms of our foreign policy – founded on the values of peace, humanity, justice and equality. We will continue to contribute meaningfully towards a just and equitable community of nations,” he added Critics said Hishammuddin’s quip suggested Malaysia was subordinate to China. Opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim on Saturday said he was astonished by the remark and urged the minister to retract it.

“This is not the language and style that should be used in the diplomatic world and international relations, as it seemingly implies Malaysia is a puppet to a foreign power,” Ibrahim wrote.

“The minister should immediately apologise to the Malaysian rakyat [people], and withdraw his tactless remark.”

It was Hishammuddin’s first trip to China as the country’s top diplomat since taking the job in March last year following a domestic political shake-up.