Singapore Says ‘Crazy Rich Asians’ Author Skipped Military Service
HONG KONG — The author of “Crazy Rich Asians,” the best-selling novel on which the new hit film is based, never fulfilled his national service obligations in Singapore and could face a fine or potential prison term, the country’s Ministry of Defense said Wednesday.
The status of the author, Kevin Kwan, was revealed by the authorities one day after the film, which was largely set and filmed in Singapore, made its premiere there. Mr. Kwan did not attend the opening there, although the director, Jon M. Chu, and several of the film’s stars did.
Mr. Kwan, 44, left Singapore when he was 11 and moved to Houston. Singapore requires all male citizens to perform two years of service in the military, the police or the civil defense force, generally starting at age 18. Singaporeans are not allowed to renounce their citizenship until they turn 21, and can face legal problems if they try to do so without fulfilling their national service.
Some profiles of Mr. Kwan said he became an American citizen at age 18. But Singapore appears to have not given up its claims to him. The Ministry of Defense said Mr. Kwan’s application to renounce his citizenship in 1994 was rejected, as was a subsequent appeal.
“Mr. Kwan has committed offenses under the Enlistment Act,” the ministry said in a statement, adding that he could face a fine of up to $7,300 and/or imprisonment of up to three years if convicted.
Mr. Kwan’s status was first reported by the Singapore-based newspaper The Straits Times, which said the author’s absence from the premiere was widely discussed.
His 2013 book tells the story of a Chinese-American woman who travels with her boyfriend to Singapore, where she meets his family and learns they are fabulously rich. “Crazy Rich Asians” is the first Hollywood studio movie with an all-Asian cast since the “Joy Luck Club” 25 years ago. It topped the North American box office last weekend, reflecting strong reviews and audience demand for diversity on the screen.
Mr. Kwan could not immediately be reached for comment on Wednesday.
Singapore instituted national service requirements in 1967, shortly after its independence from Malaysia, to build up the small nation’s military force. Young Singaporean men are supposed to register when they are 16½. Those who go abroad as teenagers are required to apply for exit permits. For longer stays abroad, young men must also post a bond worth at least $55,000 to ensure they return to complete the service.
The Defense Ministry said that Mr. Kwan failed to register for national service in 1990, despite letters sent to his overseas address, and that he remained abroad “without a valid exit permit.”
Young Singaporean men living abroad sometimes run into difficulty with the service rules. Last month the ministry rejected an appeal by Benjamin Davis, a 17-year-old Singaporean soccer player who signed a contract with English Premier League club Fulham, to have his service deferred.