For those who aren’t aware, Hong Kongers have opted for a rather subtle form of protest as they continue to oppose the controversial Extradition Bill. They have now moved on to pasting colourful Post-it notes on walls across the district with thoughts and messages regarding the protest and the Bill. These are called “Lennon Walls”, inspired by the original wall in Prague dedicated to the late John Lennon in the 1980s following his assassination but later became a source of annoyance to the communist regime as youngsters started posting their grievances on the wall.
Hong Kong’s “Lennon Walls” started one week after the violent protest on 1 July where a group of demonstrators stomped into the parliament building and defaced the Hong Kong emblem, ruined portraits of political leaders and destroyed furniture.
As such, plenty of “Lennon Walls” sprouted across the city as it is seen as a way to keep the anti-extradition bill campaign going. Many of the Hong Kong protesters who are not entirely certain about their next move say that posting their messages on the walls is a way to show that they will continue to fight.
But, could it be possible for Singapore to create its own Lennon Wall?
TOC recently published an article highlighting how it would be almost impossible to organise street protests in the Republic the way it was done in Hong Kong given Singapore’s severely restricted laws.
This is because there have been numerous examples of how an assembly of any number, even a one man silent protest, is considered illegal in Singapore.
Although a Lennon Wall is deemed as less violent compared to these protests, but it is still something that would not likely happen in Singapore.
Activist Jolovan Wham was charged in 2017 for vandalism just for sticking two pieces of A4 sized paper on the MRT window which he then removed it before leaving the train carriage.
Further back in 2013 street artist Samatha Lo, also known as the “Sticker Lady”, was sentenced to 240 hours of community service after she was caught stencilling phrases like “My Grandfather Road” on walls and streets, as well as pasting her removable stickers on traffic light buttons as a public art piece.
If that is not all, in 2005, Buangkok residents put up cardboard cutouts of white elephants in front of the Buangkok MRT station to protest against its non-opening. Soon after that, police started an investigation on it as it is seen as a case of public display without permit since it violated the Public Entertainment and Meetings Act.
The investigation sparked controversy because many saw the act of putting up the cardboard cutouts as harmless and not worthy of an investigation. This then caused the police to close the investigation without pressing charges but issued a stern warning to the offender.
Apart from that, Singaporean blogger Au Waipang wrote in his blog that Vandalism Act 1966 was originally designed to destroy an opposition party, Barisan Sosialis, and not so much to prevent vandalism.
Citing law academic Jothie Rajah’s book titled “Authoritarian Rule of Law”, Au explained that in the mid 1960s, Lee Kuan Yew and the People’s Action Party (PAP) “hold on power was tenuous”. As such, they wanted to put a stop at the method activists from Barisan Sosialis used to communicate with the public – which was through putting up posters at many locations.
Although the existing Minor Offences Act was in place to criminalise vandalism, the punishment of S$50 fine and/or a week in jail was not “sufficient when the objective became one of political extermination”, Au said.
He added, “So a new law was introduced raising the fine to $2,000 with a maximum of three years in jail. It was also made into a non-bailable offence — which is quite incredible for such a minor, non-violent offence — presumably to stop accused persons from putting up more posters while out on bail”.
This clearly shows that the Act was amended to crush the opposition party and its means to reach the public.
Looking at how tight the laws are in Singapore, it seems almost certain that a Lennon Wall would not be seen in the country, not in the near future at least.