'Crazy Rich Asians' author wanted in Singapore over national service

Thursday, 23 Aug, 2018

The film had its Singapore premiere on Tuesday night ahead of local release on Wednesday but Kwan was not among the cast or crew in attendance.

And in a twist worthy of a Hollywood thriller, Singapore's defence ministry revealed in a statement that Kwan "failed to register for National Service in 1990, despite notices and letters sent to his overseas address".

Kwan has lived in the United States since about 1990.

The film, directed by Jon M. Chu, has been widely praised as a breakthrough for Asian-American and southeast Asian representation at the USA box office, where the last film with an all-Asian cast was 1993's The Joy Luck Club. He also stayed overseas without a valid exit permit. He reportedly applied twice to renounce his citizenship at a later date, but was rejected as he had not served in the military. Male Singaporean citizens are required to spend two years, in most cases, in a uniformed service as young adults.

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"Mr Kwan is therefore wanted for defaulting on his NS obligations", Mindef said. If convicted of draft-dodging, Kwan faces a three-year prison sentence and a fine of up to $7,300 (S$10,000).

What got my wheels turning was an early scene in which Rachel, a Chinese-American economics professor at New York University, is invited by her boyfriend Nick to accompany him to his hometown of Singapore to attend a friend's wedding and meet his family.

"Crazy Rich Asians" topped the domestic box office last weekend when it opened with a five-day total of $35 million. Production on "China Rich Girlfriend" and "Rich People Problems", the follow-up books to "Crazy Rich Asians" in Kevin Kwan's trilogy, will be overseen by Color Force ("The Hunger Games") and Ivanhoe Productions ("Crazy Rich Asians").

The film, with a mostly eastern Asian cast, has drawn criticism for not representing Singapore's multi-ethnic society.