Kevin Kwan, the author of the 2013 novel Crazy Rich Asians, which just saw a very successful theatrical adaptation, is facing up to three years in prison in his native Singapore. The author, riding high on one of the biggest accomplishments of his career, has been accused of draft dodging by avoiding Singapore’s mandatory military service for adult males.
Kwan has lived in the U.S. ever since 1990, and attempted to officially renounce his Singaporean citizenship in 1994, according to Variety. However, the nation turned down that renunciation, saying that Kwan would have to serve out the mandatory two years of national service in the police or civic defense force that all men must serve after the age of 18. It’s unclear why the country waited another 20-plus years before making a public proclamation that Kwan was essentially a wanted criminal, though.
Regardless, Kwan was obviously not in attendance for the Singapore premiere of Crazy Rich Asians on Tuesday, and one would think he won’t be able to visit his native country anytime soon. If captured and convicted of draft dodging, he would face a prison sentence of up to three years, and a fine of $7,000—which seems like a curiously small amount, when the alternative is three years in jail.
The film, directed by Jon M. Chu, has been widely praised as a breakthrough for Asian-American and southeast Asian representation at the U.S. box office, where the last film with an all-Asian cast was 1993’s The Joy Luck Club. It has proved successful with both critics and audiences, bringing in around $40 million to date, although it looks to continue tacking on substantially more. It’s a shame that what would likely be a time of celebration for Kwan is instead marred by these charges.
As Singaporean defense ministry’s statement reads as follows:
“Mr Kevin Kwan failed to register for National Service (NS) in 1990, despite notices and letters sent to his overseas address. He also stayed overseas without a valid exit permit. Mr Kwan is therefore wanted for defaulting on his NS obligations. In 1994, his application and subsequent appeal to renounce his Singapore citizenship without serving NS were rejected. Mr Kwan has committed offences under the Enlistment Act, and is liable to a fine of up to $10,000 and/or imprisonment of up to 3 years upon conviction.”