It has been recently reported that the editor of The Online Citizen (TOC), Mr Terry Xu (Xu) was interrogated for upwards of eight hours for alleged criminal defamation over an article by a Mr Willy Sum (Sum) that was published on the website. The article which was swiftly removed from TOC’s webpage allegedly related to accusations of corruption against the Singapore government by Sum While the article was not written by Xu, he had all of his electronic equipment (including all the equipment required for writing and publication on TOC) confiscated.
In 2016, Yang Kaiheng, the key person behind The Real Singapore (TRS) website was jailed eight months for being found guilty of sedition through the publication of various articles that allegedly fanned the flame of racism. TRS was also known to have been critical of the Singapore government. While the fact that TRS articles did contain racist overtones is not in dispute, it is noteworthy to compare the punishment meted out to him with others who have also been accused of racism or sedition.
Earlier this year, two women were warned over their Facebook (FB) posts which contained information that could have been construed as inflammatory to racial harmony in Singapore. In their post, they had alleged that certain races in Singapore looked down on others. While I am not suggesting that these women be jailed, I do note the contrast in punishment for similar offences.
A DBS employee was also investigated for posting a picture of a torn Singapore flag on his FB page. While DBS did eventually let him go, it does not appear that the man faced any criminal charges or had his electronic devices confiscated for the purpose of investigation. I am not suggesting that the man ought to have been jailed. Rather, what I am observing is an arguable possibility of unequal application of the law over similar offences.
Readers might be wondering why I have mentioned TOC, Xu and Sum in this article. The trio were after all not accused of any racism. However, isn’t fanning the flames of racism far worse than accusations against a government which has all the resources available to it to rebut those accusations without having to resort to heavy interrogation and confiscation?
I have not read the offending article on the TOC. As mentioned, it was swiftly removed. What is the actual damage that has been done to the Singapore government? Isn’t a defaced flag and incendiary remarks over race far worse than accusations which can be easily rebutted on a wide scale by the government? Why then was Xu subjected to such treatment as if he were a common criminal?