KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 13 — DAP secretary-general Lim Guan Eng described the reference about chopsticks made by Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad as simplistic and offensive to the Chinese community, whom the latter suggested have yet to “assimilate”.

The former prime minister had reportedly used the reference to describe the obstacle to efforts to assimilate the Chinese community, a view he has consistently expressed throughout his political career despite it having been repeatedly debunked.

Lim, a former senior member of Dr Mahathir's cabinet lineup, said the suggestion that the use of chopsticks — as opposed to using hands to feed — is a sign of Chinese identity was factually wrong, noting that the cutlery was also an integral part of other cultures.

The DAP leader was also critical of Dr Mahathir’s view about assimilation. Lim said Dr Mahathir should have focused more on integration.


“Tun is wrong to focus on assimilation instead of integration and that using chopsticks instead of adopting the Malaysian way of eating with their hands is one of the reasons leading to separation amongst the people,” Lim said in a statement.

“This is not only simplistic but offensive to the Chinese community here. Tun should be reminded that not just China or Taiwan but countries such as Japan, South Korea and Vietnam also use chopsticks,” he added.

Dr Mahathir was reported to have made the controversial assertion when taking questions from the floor at the launch of his new memoir, entitled Capturing Hope: The Struggle Continues for a New Malaysia.


Malaysiakini had quoted him as saying:

"For example, the Chinese eat with chopsticks, they don't eat with their hands. They have not adopted the Malaysian way of eating food. They retained the chopstick which is an identity with China, not with Malaysia and many other things.”

Lim retorted by suggesting the view Dr Mahathir expressed was a logical fallacy.

“Does a Malay using chopsticks or fork and spoon to eat lose his Malayness? In fact, many non-Chinese Malaysians and Westerners are proud of their ability to use both chopsticks as well as fork and spoon without any loss of their national identity,” he said in the statement.

Lim then said eating with chopsticks does not make anyone less Malaysian.

“Malaysians of Chinese descent born here are proud of our loyalty to Malaysia and have no wish to return to a China growing with wealth and prosperity, even if given an opportunity to do so,” he said.

Right-wing politicians have long employed such tropes that were expressed to accuse the Chinese community of being less “patriotic” or “disloyal”, ostensibly because majority of them are seen as pro-opposition.

Lim said Malaysian-born ethnic Chinese have always identified themselves with Malaysia and never with China.

“Even the two million Malaysians who migrate, just like other Malays and Indians, choose Western countries because of better pay prospects and equal opportunities,” he said.

“And yet Tun does not say that the Chinese community here identify with Western countries.”