Singapore activist fined for public Skype call with HK protest leader

Human rights activist Jolovan Wham arrives at the State Court in Singapore, Feb 21, 2019. (Reuters pic)

SINGAPORE: A Singapore court fined a rights activist on Thursday for organising an assembly without a permit after he organised a public conference where a high-profile Hong Kong pro-democracy leader spoke via Skype.

Activist Jolovan Wham was fined S$2,000 (US$1,478.52) for organising a public assembly without a permit. He was further fined S$1,200 for refusing to sign a statement that he gave to police.

Judge Kessler Soh told the court that Wham went ahead with the event “despite being informed that the event needed a permit”.

His lawyer, Eugene Thuraisingam said that Wham will appeal the conviction but if that fails, Wham will not pay the fines.

According to the court’s ruling, Wham would be jailed for 16 days unless the fines are paid.

The multi-ethnic city-state has strict laws regulating public assembly and bans foreigners from participating in events dealing with a political cause.

Its laws have been subject to criticism by rights groups who say that they severely limit freedom of speech and assembly.

The government has held the position that Singapore’s laws and regulations were needed to maintain social order and harmony.

The “Civil Disobedience and Social Movements” conference took place more than two years ago and involved a panel of activists critical of the Singapore government.

Pro-democracy leader Joshua Wong, who helped organise protests in Hong Kong in 2014, participated in the event via Skype.

The 2014 “Umbrella Movement” in Hong Kong blocked major roads for 79 days, presenting Beijing with one of its biggest political challenges in decades.

Last year, Hong Kong’s highest court freed Wong and two others, reversing a decision by a lower court to jail them for unlawful assembly.