Ferrari has been in the news lately for all the wrong reasons. In March, a crash involving a Ferrari in Beijing’s Haidian district led to widespread speculation over the identity of the driver and the blocking of the keyword “Ferrari” on Chinese social networks. Just weeks afterwards, following the downfall of former Chongqing party chief Bo Xilai, all of China was obsessing over the veracity of rumours that his son Bo Guagua had picked up the daughters of then-US ambassador Jon Huntsman for a dinner date in a Ferrari. Last week, news of tyre marks left on Nanjing’s city wall by a Ferrari during a publicity stunt for the car maker’s Chinese dealership left the Chinese public outraged.
On Saturday, a tragic three-vehicle accident in Singapore caused by a speeding Ferrari driven by a young, good-looking and fabulously rich mainland Chinese immigrant killed three people, including himself. The Ferrari collided into a Hyundai Sonata taxi, which subsequently hit a motorcycle.
31-year-old Sichuan native Ma Chi died on the spot while a local taxi driver and his female Japanese passenger succumbed to their injuries later at the hospital. The motorcyclist sustained injuries to his spine and remains under medical observation.
Ma’s heavily pregnant wife, He Tingting, formerly a news anchor with Sichuan TV, arrived at the crash site with her inconsolable mother-in-law and her four-year-old daughter, and was surprised to find an unidentified female passenger in her husband’s car. The woman was rumoured in local press to be a KTV hostess and is currently still in hospital.
According to the Straits Times, Ma had come to Singapore four years ago, and his wife joined him a year later after giving up her TV career. The Ferrari was a limited-edition $1.43 million model that Ma had bought himself for his 30th birthday last year.
At the time of the accident, Ma was applying for permanent residency in Singapore and his wife was on the board of the Chinese immigrant group Singapore Tian Fu Association.
Anti-Chinese sentiment in Singapore is up following the accident, and outraged netizens have left thousands of angry comments on websites, bulletin boards and social networks.
The Temasek Times, a widely-read and largely anti-foreign news website, lambasted journalists from the mainstream media who “did not think nationality is an issue”.
Singapore’s population has exploded from 3.2 million in 2000 to 5.2 million in 2011, as the government ramped up its intake of immigrants. Mainland Chinese migrants have constituted a large part of newcomers due to lower fertility rates among the ethnic Chinese Singaporean community and the government’s belief that it is imperative to maintain the city-state’s current ethnic mix.
Mainland Chinese and other foreigners have been blamed for taking local jobs, depressing wages, pushing up real estate prices, and testing the limits of the public transportation network.
The government’s immigration policy was a hot button issue in Singapore‘s general election last year, which saw a record number of opposition politicians voted into parliament and the performance by the ruling People’s Action Party sink to an all-time low.
The below video showing actual footage from the crash as seen from the in-car camera of another taxi went viral on Sina yesterday, chalking up close to 700,000 views in one evening. Online commentary has been unsurprisingly unsympathetic to the Ferrari driver.
UPDATE: Peh Shing Huei of the Straits Times gives us a closer look at some of the things that have been said by Chinese netizens:
‘Such young tycoons have done so much damage, and they are still so full of themselves when overseas. It is a real disgrace to us Chinese,’ wrote Mr Fei Yuanqi on the popular QQ.com website.
Another netizen Zhang Qianye said: ‘China’s tycoons, the world’s nuisance.’
‘Singapore is a country which is really ruled by law. It is not like ours, which is ruled by men. When the American boy broke Singapore’s law years ago, he was still caned according to the country’s laws even after (then) United States President Bill Clinton pleaded on his behalf,’ said an unnamed netizen on the nationalist Global Times website, referring to the famous Michael Fay incident in 1994.
Others pointed out that Chinese nationals have problems not just in Singapore. Mainlanders who drive in Hong Kong have raised the hackles of the local people, blogger Han Yuting said, adding: ‘Our traffic rules and driving standards could be the worst in the world.’
Typical of the humour commonly seen on China’s Web, many netizens urged Singapore to take in more of such rich, spoilt Chinese so they would leave China.