JOHOR, MALAYSIA— Recently, the story of Uncle Cheong (Cheong Kah Pin 张家平), the father of lifetime inmate Cheong Chun Yin, has once again gained attention from netizens.
Singapore media has reported on his story of making twice-monthly trips to Singapore at 2 am to visit his 40-year-old son in Changi Prison, persistently maintaining this routine for over a decade.
Uncle Cheong’s son, who is currently 40 years old, is serving a life sentence.
Despite being 67 years old, Uncle Cheong works hard as a vegetable farmer, and his determination and love for his son have won praise on the internet.
Many netizens have left messages of encouragement for Uncle Cheong, with some offering to provide economic assistance, such as buying him a new motorcycle or permanently sponsoring the maintenance of his current one.
Others have offered to arrange transportation for him back and forth and help him sell vegetables online.
Kindly declines all offers from netizens
However, Uncle Cheong had earlier graciously declined all offers from netizens via a media interview, stating that he did not want any additional assistance.
He explained that his current motorcycle had been with him for over 20 years, and although it is old, he has grown accustomed to it and cannot bear to part with it.
As his entry and exit times to Singapore are not fixed, sometimes entering Singapore as early as 2 a.m. and leaving as late as 12 p.m. or 1 p.m., he did not want to inconvenience anyone and thus declined any offers of transportation arrangements.
Uncle Cheong welcomes netizens to visit his stall
“Thank you for coming to help me, encourage me, and comfort me. I am really grateful to all of you.”
“As long as everyone has good intentions, I am already very happy. Please do not trouble anyone or spend everyone’s money… I am an old man who doesn’t eat much, just enough to get by.”
Uncle Cheong welcomed netizens to visit his vegetable stall and buy from him.
He mentioned that a woman in her 30s had visited him and expressed her desire to help arrange transportation or buy him a new motorcycle to travel to Singapore, but he declined these offers.
Uncle Cheong handed over public donation to State Assemblywoman’s office
Despite publicly declining assistance from the public, another woman visited Uncle Cheong and insisted on giving him an envelope with cash.
Liow Cai Tung, the State Assemblywoman for Johor Jaya (N.42), shared that Uncle Cheong handed over the donation to her service centre instead, hoping that the money could help other needy people.
In a Facebook post, Ms Liow expressed that Uncle Cheong was truly grateful but did not want any further assistance.
“I am deeply grateful and understand that kindness has nothing to do with the amount of material goods or the closeness of relationships but is only about whether you have a heart to do good for others. ”
“Uncle Cheong’s spirit is an example for us to learn from!” Ms Liow wrote.
Uncle Cheong also expressed his hope that the Singapore government will further review the current act and regulations related to life imprisonment, allowing inmates with good conduct to be released earlier.
“I hope my son is safe and sound, and I wish to meet him as soon as possible,” said Uncle Cheong.
The public can show support for Uncle Cheong by visiting his vegetable stall located in Pasar Awam Taman Johor Jaya.
The stall is open during two periods: from 3 am to 10 am for the morning market and from 5 pm to 10 pm for the evening market.
Chun Yin could have his case reviewed by 2028
As for now, there may still be hope for the father and son to be reunited.
In Singapore, an offender sentenced to life imprisonment and served 20 years in jail may have their case reviewed for remission by the Minister of Home Affairs.
Chun Yin would have spent 20 years in prison by 2028, and his case could then be reviewed.
From death row to life imprisonment
On 16 June 2008, Cheong Chun Yin, then 24, arrived at Changi Airport from Myanmar.
The Singapore Police received information that Cheong had allegedly passed a bag containing heroin to a 54-year-old female, Pang Siew Fum.
The two were arrested separately later that day, and the bag was found to contain 2,726g of heroin.
Cheong claims he was told to bring in gold bars by “Lau De”, a person who was a regular customer at his father’s vegetable stall, and maintained that he did not know he was carrying drugs.
Cheong and Pang were convicted of drug trafficking after a joint High Court trial in 2010 and sentenced to death – the mandatory penalty at the time for trafficking more than 15g of the drug.
When first arrested in 2008, Cheong repeatedly asserted to the Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB) that he had no idea the suitcase contained heroin.
He also gave the officers the telephone numbers of “Lau De”. However, he claims that they had done “absolutely nothing” to trace the whereabouts of this “Lau De”.
M Ravi: “another long drawn battle in the courts and extensive campaigning after Yong Vui Kong’s case”
Singapore’s foremost human rights lawyer, M Ravi, has been involved in the case since 2012. Besides advocating for Chun Yin’s rights, Mr Ravi has been supportive of Uncle Cheong, and still keeps in touch with him after the court lifted Chun Yin’s death row.
Mr Ravi once described the case as “another long-drawn battle in the courts and extensive campaigning after Yong Vui Kong’s case”.
This certification was made possible by amendments to the Misuse of Drugs Act, which took effect on 1 January 2013, giving the court the discretion to sentence drug couriers facing the death penalty to life imprisonment instead, provided they cooperated with the authorities to disrupt drug-trafficking activities.
In September 2013, the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) announced that Cheong had been certified as having substantively assisted the CNB in disrupting drug-trafficking activities outside Singapore, based on new information received.
On 20 April 2015, the High Court revoked Chun Yin’s death sentence as he was issued with a certificate of substantive assistance and re-sentenced him to a mandatory term of life imprisonment with effect from the date of his arrest.
However, he still had to receive the mandatory minimum of 15 strokes of the cane, as required for all drug couriers who were certified and had given substantive assistance.
Chun Yin was reportedly the fourth person on death row whose sentence was commuted under these circumstances.