Speaker and event organiser Han Hui Hui

What claim have we to another’s citizenship?


By Ariffin Sha

A petition circulating online, directed at the Singapore Government, seeks to convince the Government to revoke Ms Han Hui Hui’s Singapore citizenship.

Ms Han is the organiser of the Return Our CPF protests, and has been criticised for the last protest where she and her compatriots and supporters clashed with a YMCA charity event for special needs children. Ms Han is a new citizen who took her oath in 2012.

The petition was started by MrTerry Lim, who wrote:

“Han Hui Hui is a new citizen who is passionate about propagating and fuelling hate messages in Singapore. Recently, not only has she crossed the boundaries by writing hate-filled messages about Singapore’s founding father, Mr Lee Kuan Yew on her Facebook page, she has also led a mob of protesters to heckle kids with special needs from YMCA at Hong Lim Park.

Singapore does not need a non-contributing citizen who spreads hate and negativity in the country. We urge you to sign our petition and convince the government to revoke her citizenship.”

This petition has already gathered close to 6,000 signatures, surpassing the number of signatures on the petition by Roy Ngerng for the Government to “Return Our CPF” which has less than 3,400 signatures. However, it still is far behind the petition to remove Ms Tin Pei Ling as a MP and the petition to shut down STOMP which has almost 20,000 and 23,000 signatures respectively.

The number of signatures on the petition, however, is not as important as the actual cause it professes to champion. On what grounds can one’s citizenship be revoked?

Here’s where the law stands. The Constitution of Singapore dictates the situations where a citizen might have his or her citizenship revoked:

“129.—(1)  A citizen of Singapore who is a citizen by registration or by naturalisation shall cease to be such a citizen if he is deprived of his citizenship by an order of the Government made in accordance with this Article.

(2) The Government may, by order, deprive any such citizen of his citizenship if the Government is satisfied that the registration or the certificate of naturalisation —

(a) was obtained by means of fraud, false representation or the concealment of any material fact; or

(b) was effected or granted by mistake.

(3) The Government may, by order, deprive of his citizenship —

(a) any person who is a citizen of Singapore by naturalisation if the Government is satisfied —

(i) that he has shown himself by act or speech to be disloyal or disaffected towards Singapore; or

(ii) that he has, during any war in which Singapore is or was engaged, unlawfully traded or communicated with an enemy or been engaged in or associated with any business which to his knowledge was carried on in such manner as to assist an enemy in that war; or

(b) any citizen of Singapore by registration or by naturalisation if the Government is satisfied —

(i) that he has, within the period of 5 years after registration or naturalisation, been sentenced in any country to imprisonment for a term of not less than one year or to a fine of not less than $5,000 or the equivalent in the currency of that country, and has not received a free pardon in respect of the offence for which he was so sentenced; or

(ii) that he has, at any time after registration or naturalisation, been engaged in any activities which are prejudicial to the security of Singapore, or the maintenance of public order therein, or the maintenance therein of essential services, or in any criminal activities which are prejudicial to the interests of public safety, peace or good order.”

As such, to have her citizenship revoked, Ms Han need necessarily do something seriously wrong, such as openly expressing disloyalty, getting imprisoned overseas or selling state secrets, before the Government can consider revoking her citizenship.

Heckling special needs children (which did not happen), reprehensible as that sounds, writing hate-filled messages about a senior statesman, and generally “spreading hate and negativity in the country” would not likely make the mark.

In fact, searching online for a similar case would turn up naught. A related case was that of Mr Vadiveloo Rajamuthi, who in 2003 lost his right to citizenship. The reason: He did not take the oath of renunciation.

From a legal perspective, it would be difficult for Ms Han’s citizenship to be revoked, much less based on a petition.

The other questions that has been raised by many online commenters is a moral one: Should there even be a call to revoke a person’s citizenship?

My view is a resolute “no”.

What Ms Han did may be wrong and distasteful in the eyes of many. However, this should not set the precedent for citizenships to be revoked, even if a sizeable group of people start petitioning for it.

Citizenship represents a prestigious status, as much as a symbol of home and belonging. It shouldn’t be taken away easily.

We must embrace diversity, and learning how to tolerate the views of those like Ms Han’s is part of embracing diversity. If we do not agree with her, we should attack her arguments and her actions, but not her personally.

What Mr Terry Lim and his supporters are doing could possibly even amount to cyber-bullying.

Starting the practice of revoking someone’s citizenship, even by popular demand, is the first step down a slippery slope, which I strongly hope we don’t go down. As much as there are legal grounds against it, the value of citizenship, the moral imperative and the need to accept diversity should rank much higher in our minds than mere right and wrong.