Singapore Justice System Tested by Falun Gong Trial

Proper judicial procedure comes into question on first day of trial of human rights demonstrators

By Jaya Gibson and Steven Smith
On Assignment in Singapore Aug 29, 2006

[A passerby takes a look at a placard against the killing of Falun Gong practitioners in China, in the financial district of Singapore, 02 August 2005. Practitioners were recently arrested for handing out flyers about the persecution. (Roslan Rahman/AFP/Getty Images)]

SINGAPORE—In a miniscule room, tucked away in the furthest corner of the Subordinate Court, a trial of remarkable human rights interest got underway today. The accused are two Falun Gong practitioners who were peacefully protesting outside of the Chinese Embassy on July 20th, exercising their democratic right to practice their freedom of belief. Their protest consisted of displaying a banner bearing in Chinese the words, “7.20 – Stop the inhumane persecution of Falun Gong in China.” (The persecution of Falun Gong in China started on July 20, 1999.)

This statement is allegedly ‘insulting’ and is ‘harassing the Chinese Communist Party’ and these are the allegations that resulted in the protesters’ arrests.

Trial Treated Differently—Overseas Influence?

From the outset of the trial today, an inordinate number of police restricted court access to anyone who was not a witness or a family member of the defendants. Initially foreign press was also not allowed access as local press went straight through.

The feeling among the many interested parties waiting outside the court—some who had traveled from overseas; Australia, UK and Hong Kong to name a few countries—was that Courtroom 36 was deliberately chosen so as to restrict access and restrict public visibility.

Prior to the trial truly getting underway it was made apparent that the prosecution witnesses were present in the courtroom when the defendant’s witnesses were not, thus undermining correct judicial procedure.

One such motion of serious contention was that a VCD containing footage to be submitted as evidence for the prosecution was denied to the defense due to fears that it might be made available to the public via the Internet and other channels. This raises the question: Why does the prosecution fear this footage reaching the public domain?

Defense lawyer M. Ravi put forward several impassioned motions outlining the various discrepancies surrounding the trials circumstances, suggesting a miscarriage of justice. All these motions were denied.

He also stated that article 12 of the constitution—(1) All persons are equal before the law and entitled to the equal protection of the law—had been breached and that the AGC is deliberately targeting Falun Gong practitioners under pressure from the government and Beijing.

73-Year-Old Defendant Ordered Deported Prior to Trial

One such example of this discrimination is clearly evident in the case of Chen Peiyu, one of the three arrested. She was finally able to attend the trial after an unusual series of events.

Chen Peiyu, a 73-year-old lady, who had been handcuffed and detained in July 2005 for handing out leaflets, was abducted by Immigration officials on August 10, 2006 prior to the trial set for August 28, 2006.

Plainclothes police and Immigration officials approached her while she was shopping, asked her name, which she gave, and then requested her passport. She refused and instead offered a duplicate copy of her passport. They then forcibly carried her to a car and drove her to the immigration office. Her green card was then revoked without explanation and she was told she had seven days to leave the country. She had to conclude her affairs and be gone by August 17.

Defense lawyer M. Ravi issued a letter to Immigration on August 14 explaining that Chen was required to attend trial on the 28th and couldn’t leave Singapore.

On the August 16, police then hand-delivered a notice requesting that Chen appear in court on the 17th. On August 17, after a very short hearing, charges against her were dropped, allowing immigration to continue deportation proceedings.

Immigration then informed her that she must leave on August 21, as she was no longer required for trial. On the 21st she traveled to Batam but was refused entry and had to return to Singapore. After talking with their superiors, immigration officials granted her an extension until August 22. On the 22nd, Chen traveled to Malaysia.

She was later subpoenaed as a witness for the trial by defense lawyer M. Ravi and granted permission to return for one day to attend trial on the 28th.

This raises the question of why officials went to such trouble to prevent a 73-year-old lady from attending a trial, a lady who has committed no apparent crime, an elderly woman arrested for passing out leaflets.

Chen, who practices Falun Gong, believes she was targeted after Chinese officials put pressure on the Singapore Government to crack down on Falun Gong.

Falun Gong is an exercise and meditation practice which cultivates the universal principle of truthfulness, compassion, and tolerance. It was banned in China by former head of state Jiang Zemin in 1999 when it became very popular. Since then, many thousands have been tortured or killed and hundreds of thousands sent to labor camps without trial for practicing the exercises and principles.

Recent reports have exposed that organs for China’s booming organ transplantation industry are obtained from living Falun Gong practitioners who are imprisoned for their beliefs. Such illicit organ harvesting is widespread in China, with hospitals and the military profiting. In a press conference held in Melbourne, Australia, at the Sir Thomas More Center last week, Edward Macmillan-Scott, the Vice President of the European Parliament, called such use of Falun Gong prisoners of conscience nothing short of genocide.

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Singapore threatens shoot-to-kill measures against violent protesters

Received via email today…

Just two weeks ahead of the annual IMF/WB meetings in Singapore, the police issued a warning that security forces will not be averse to the use of firearms against protesters who threaten the life or health of others.

Although Article 14 of the Singapore Constitution states the rights of its citizens to assemble peaceably, it also provides for Parliament to impose restrictions in the interest of security. (see below)

In reality, all manner of public protests and demonstrations are banned in Singapore. The last officially-sanctioned public protest was held in 1988 when 4000 members of the State-aligned trade union rallied against alleged American interference in domestic politics.

Last August, a silent protest by four activists in the business district was broken up a team of riot police. The incident was recorded on video.

In 2002, the police aborted a planned rally by two opposition politicians outside the presidential complex by arresting them just as they set foot on the scene. The arrest was also captured on video by filmamker Martyn See in his short video Singapore Rebel.

Despite the police warning, opposition politcian Chee Soon Juan has vowed to stage a public demonstration during the IMF/WB proceedings to highlight the country’s growing income gap. His application for a march had been earlier rejected by the authorities.

Meanwhile, NGOs and civil society groups said they are planning mass protests in the Indonesian resort island of Batam, a boat ride from Singapore.

Freedom of speech, assembly and association
14. —(1) Subject to clauses (2) and (3) —

(a) every citizen of Singapore has the right to freedom of speech and expression;

(b) all citizens of Singapore have the right to assemble peaceably and without arms; and

(c) all citizens of Singapore have the right to form associations.

(2) Parliament may by law impose —

(a) on the rights conferred by clause (1) (a), such restrictions as it considers necessary or expedient in the interest of the security of Singapore or any part thereof, friendly relations with other countries, public order or morality and restrictions designed to protect the privileges of Parliament or to provide against contempt of court, defamation or incitement to any offence;

(b) on the right conferred by clause (1) (b), such restrictions as it considers necessary or expedient in the interest of the security of Singapore or any part thereof or public order; and

(c) on the right conferred by clause (1) (c), such restrictions as it considers necessary or expedient in the interest of the security of Singapore or any part thereof, public order or morality.

(3) Restrictions on the right to form associations conferred by clause (1) (c) may also be imposed by any law relating to labour or education.

Peaceful assembly the key to change in Singapore

Chee Soon Juan
30 Aug 06

Admit it. Most of us have little understanding of what our national anthem means beyond ‘mari kita.’ Still, it beats singing God Save the Queen.

There is something else that many Singaporeans know very little of and that is how we came to rid ourselves of our British overlords.

Pictures produced ad nauseum by the state media of a certain youthful-looking Lee Kuan Yew shouting vein-popping “Merdeka!” have been irreparably seared onto our visual cortices so much so that independent Singapore has become synonymous with the PAP.

Pardon our French, but this is pure, unadulterated bovine scatology.

The independence putsch came not from the PAP but from Singaporeans who cared enough and were courageous enough to publicly demonstrate their disdain for colonialism.

The PAP expertly rode the waves of public enthusiasm, waxing lyrical about freedom and democracy along the way, and came to power on the backs of courageous, ordinary Singaporeans.

Why peaceful assembly

Once ensconced in the Istana, the ruling party made illegal all the democratic freedoms that enabled us to remove the British in the first place.

The most important of these is the freedom of peaceful assembly. It was the right of assembly that enabled Singaporeans to register their voices against colonialism and all the attendant injustice, including discrimination against the locals. Public protests were the staple of the independence movement.

The PAP now makes peaceful assembly to be an evil from which Singapore must exorcise itself. It restricts the people to indoor forums and passes off MacDonald’s-suggestion-box type of feedback for national debate.

Imagine if luminaries like Lim Chin Siong and company were confined to just writing petitions to the Governor and contributing their views to Her Majesty’s Feedback Unit, where would Singapore be today? Yes, one can see that the British would have been quaking in their boots and after enough letters from the public, packed up and left.

Let us not delude ourselves. No regime will voluntarily relinquish power. It is only when those they govern demand it that autocrats will pay heed.

To this end, peaceful assembly is the only tool that citizens have to pry open the tight grip of tyranny. It is the most basic right of citizens without which ordinary folks are rendered powerless.

Still not persuaded? Let’s do a simple demonstration. Take a piece of paper and divide into two columns. On one side write down all the political grievances that you can think of: the use of the foreigners to compete with Singaporeans, the continued increase of living costs coupled with the downward spiral of wages, the atrociously expensive medical costs in this country, the creaming off of our hard-earned CPF savings, and so on.

In the other column, write down all the ways that the people can register their unhappiness publicly and, more important, the number of times the Government has heeded your call.

Now do you see the point?

Effecting change

The right of peaceful assembly is a right guaranteed not only by our Constitution but also one that is enshrined in the United Nation’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

It is a terrible shame for our nation that we remain one of the very few Asian countries that prohibits the peaceful gathering of citizens (see Like Burma, like Singapore). When we should be up there competing with dynamic Asian societies like Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, and Hong Kong (and increasingly India, Thailand, and Malaysia), we instead find ourselves in the same political league with the likes of Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, and Burma.

Being in a political straitjacket creates a double whammy for Singaporeans. Not only does it produce inane policies from a Government that is becoming increasingly out of touch with reality, it also ensures that our economy cannot benefit from the energy that would otherwise be generated by a free and dynamic people.

The truth of the matter is that as long as the citizens are deprived of their political rights, especially the right to freedom of peaceful assembly, our problems will remain. Without vehement opposition and, more important, a very public display of that vehemence, there is absolutely no incentive for the Government to acquiesce to public demands.

Over the years, the PAP Government has become impervious to the voice of the people, resulting in economic and social injustice that we currently witness. These ills will, if they haven’t already, drive our nation into a morass of problems that we will find impossible from which to extricate ourselves.

(For example, we have yet to examine fully the unintended socio-political problems that may arise from the influx of foreigners into this country – yes, very much like the repercussions of the unthinkingly harsh Stop-At-Two policy of the 1970s.)

The coming together of citizens in peaceful protests is not the only thing to do; it is the right thing to do. It is the duty of every citizen to stand up and be counted at a time when our country needs us most. Shorn of this right, our citizenship is absolutely meaningless.

Most of you would be able to see the importance and the necessity of peaceful assembly. That’s the easy part. What is significantly more difficult to do is to take that first step to take part in a peaceful assembly.

I would like to take this opportunity to encourage you to exercise your right as a citizen of Singapore and participate in the Empower Singaporeans Rally and March to be held during the WB-IMF meeting in September.

Remember, wresting back our rights of free speech and peaceful assembly is the ultimate honour one can claim as a citizen of this country.

Note: Details of the Empower Singaporeans Rally & March will be announced on this website soon.

Nigerian footballer sentenced to death in Singapore

August 31, 2006.

By AND West Africa


The House of Representatives today agreed not to interfere in the plight of Nigerian footballer Amara Iwuchukwu sentenced to death in Singapore for carrying a prohibited drug,the Nigerian News Agency said.


NAN said Iwuchukwu,19, was arrested at Changi Airport in Singapore on Nov. 27, 2004 for allegedly being in possession of a substance suspected to be heroin.

The footballer was consequently sentenced to death by a Singapore High Court and his sentence was later confirmed by an appeal court. The Deputy Chairman of the House Committee on Human Rights, Rep Abdul Oroh, had earlier moved a motion, pleading to the House to intervene in the matter.

Oroh said that he was particularly disturbed by the refusal of the president of Singapore to grant clemency to the convict.

He noted that the refusal meant that Iwuchukwu would soon be executed by
hanging, adding that Singapore was reputed to have the highest rate of executions in the world.

He urged the House to persuade President Olusegun Obasanjo to plead with his Singaporean counterpart to grant Iwuchukwu clemency on the ground that he was just 18 years old when he was arrested and for being a first offender.

Oroh also wanted the parliament of Singapore and the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA) to plead with the president of Singapore to grant amnesty the footballer.

Those who contributed to the motion, including Reps Tam Brisbe, Lola Abiola-Edewor, Tongu Tsegbe and Obenten Obenten, however, kicked against the motion.

They all argued that the footballer had tarnished Nigeria’s image by indulging in criminal activities and should be left to face the music.

NAN reports that when the Speaker, Alhaji Aminu Masari, called for a voice vote, a clear majority of the legislators voted against the motion.

Nigerian footballer sentenced to death in Singapore

August 31, 2006.

By AND West Africa

The House of Representatives today agreed not to interfere in the plight of Nigerian footballer Amara Iwuchukwu sentenced to death in Singapore for carrying a prohibited drug,the Nigerian News Agency said.

NAN said Iwuchukwu,19, was arrested at Changi Airport in Singapore on Nov. 27, 2004 for allegedly being in possession of a substance suspected to be heroin.

The footballer was consequently sentenced to death by a Singapore High Court and his sentence was later confirmed by an appeal court. The Deputy Chairman of the House Committee on Human Rights, Rep Abdul Oroh, had earlier moved a motion, pleading to the House to intervene in the matter.

Oroh said that he was particularly disturbed by the refusal of the president of Singapore to grant clemency to the convict.

He noted that the refusal meant that Iwuchukwu would soon be executed by
hanging, adding that Singapore was reputed to have the highest rate of executions in the world.

He urged the House to persuade President Olusegun Obasanjo to plead with his Singaporean counterpart to grant Iwuchukwu clemency on the ground that he was just 18 years old when he was arrested and for being a first offender.

Oroh also wanted the parliament of Singapore and the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA) to plead with the president of Singapore to grant amnesty the footballer.

Those who contributed to the motion, including Reps Tam Brisbe, Lola Abiola-Edewor, Tongu Tsegbe and Obenten Obenten, however, kicked against the motion.

They all argued that the footballer had tarnished Nigeria’s image by indulging in criminal activities and should be left to face the music.

NAN reports that when the Speaker, Alhaji Aminu Masari, called for a voice vote, a clear majority of the legislators voted against the motion.

China jails Singapore journo for spying

August 31, 2006 – 4:30PM

A Chinese court jailed a reporter for a Singapore newspaper for five years on a charge of spying in the latest in a series of high-profile cases illustrating China’s curbs on the media and dissent.

Ching Cheong, a Hong Kong-based China correspondent for the Straits Times who has been detained in China since April 2005, was also deprived of his political rights for a year and had personal property worth 300,000 yuan ($A49,500) confiscated, Xinhua news agency said.

Ching, 56, was charged with spying for Taiwan.

He was detained in the southern province of Guangdong where, his wife has said, he had travelled to collect documents related to disgraced former Chinese Communist Party leader Zhao Ziyang.

Singapore Press Holdings Ltd, the parent of the Straits Times, urged China to consider freeing Ching on medical parole.

“As he is known to be suffering from high blood pressure and is not in the best of health, we appeal to the Chinese authorities to show him leniency and compassion,” it said in a statement.

Xinhua said Ching received $HK300,000 from a Taiwan foundation, which it did not identify but described as a front for the island’s intelligence apparatus.

Ching dealt with two people from the foundation surnamed Xue and Dai with full knowledge the pair were spies, Xinhua said, adding that using an alias he sent via fax and email information involving state secrets and intelligence which he had gathered from others in Beijing.

China is the world’s leading jailer of journalists, with at least 32 in custody and another 50 Internet campaigners also in prison, rights group Reporters Without Borders says.

On Friday, a Beijing court dismissed charges that a Chinese researcher for the New York Times had illegally leaked state secrets, but sentenced him to three years for fraud.

Zhao Yan, 44, had been accused of telling the US newspaper details of rivalry between Chinese President Hu Jintao and his predecessor, Jiang Zemin, over military appointments in 2004.

A day before Zhao’s sentencing, China jailed blind human rights activist Chen Guangcheng for four years and three months for damaging property and disrupting traffic in what critics considered an unusually harsh sentence.

Sharon Hom, executive director of New York-based Human Rights in China, said she had serious concerns about the Ching case.

“Coming close on the heels of the sentences announced for Zhao Yan and Chen Guangcheng, this sentence also sends a chilling message to journalists, lawyers and other rights defenders,” she said via email.

The Hong Kong Journalists Association said it was “very dissatisfied” with the verdict and the lack of transparency and that Ching was likely to appeal.

© 2006 Reuters, Click for Restrictions

Security stepped up in Singapore ahead of major IMF conference

Talk about living under martial law. Would I be correct in interpreting the Senior Assistant Commissioner Aubeck Kam’s statement as ‘protest and we will/might/could kill you’.

What is the IMF and World Bank doing in Singapore apart from undermining any argument they had that they wish to encourage civil society groups to engage with them?

Deutsche Presse Agentur
Published: Wednesday August 30, 2006

Singapore- Security has been tightened in Singapore ahead of a major international conference, with a warning issued Thursday that police will take all appropriate measures against protestors threatening the life or health of others, including the use of firearms. More than 10,000 police officers are working with the military and other agencies to ensure the largest international gathering ever held in the city-state – hosted by the International Monetary Fund and World Bank from September 13 to 20 – goes without a hitch.

“If anybody behaves in a way that threatens the life of another or threatens serious injury to another, then the police will use all necessary means to prevent that from happening,” The Straits Times quoted Senior Assistant Commissioner Aubeck Kam as saying.

“In appropriate situations, this may extend to the use of firearms and the possibility of death,” he said.

“We will not entertain any notion of allowing groups of people to gather and form into larger and larger groups,” he added.

The public has also been advised to expect random checks at shopping centres, commercial buildings and transit points.

Sixteen-thousand delegates are due to attend the conference and run-up meetings.

Despite the World Bank’s call for advocates of different causes to be allowed at outside venues, police reiterated the only venue for engagement with the delegates is a section of the lobby in Suntec City, where the meetings will be held.

“We are prepared to deal with protesters in a firm, decisive, but fair manner,” Kam said.

Additional police are coming to help from Indonesia, the Antara News Agency reported.

A warning on Australia’s travel advisory Web site cited potential civil unrest and political tension in the city-state.

“Penalties include heavy fines and imprisonment,” the Australian government said in advising its citizens.

Thousands of protestors have indicated they will confine their activities to the Indonesian island of Bintan, a short ferry ride away from Singapore, where authorities warned earlier that violent protesters could be caned.

Only 400 people from groups outside Singapore will be allowed at Suntec City to assure that the scenario at last December’s World Trade Organization meeting in Hong Kong is not repeated. Police had fired tear gas at violent protest groups and arrested more than 1,000 people.

Apart from plainclothes police officers, video cameras and air force helicopters will also monitor crowds. Officers armed with intelligence from foreign police forces have started looking out for known troublemakers at immigration checkpoints.

The ongoing security sweep caps more than five years of planning and rehearsals, which started in 2001 after Singapore was selected as host city for this year’s IMF/World Bank session.

“We examined security street by street, floor by floor of all the venues affected,” Kam said.

© 2006 DPA – Deutsche Presse-Agenteur