Singapore detainee for 18 years dies in London

German Press Agency
11 Feb 07

Ho Toon Chin, a former trade unionist detained in Singapore for 18 years, died in London from a stroke at the age of 70, news reports said Friday. Ho served one of the longest detentions without a trial in the city-state. He was released in 1982 and became manager in a small media company.

Ho had a stroke on Sunday and died in a hospital on Tuesday, his son Hehao, 21, told The Straits Times from Britain. Ho will be cremated in London on Monday.

Ho was arrested in 1963 when the government nabbed more than 100 left-wing politicians and trade unionists for alleged subversive activities.

He was then general secretary of the Singapore National Seamen’s Union, which was later banned.

On his release, Ho disputed the government’s claim that his ideological outlook had changed and that he no longer wanted to be involved in trade union activities.

He claimed the government’s statement was an attempt to “cover up” its failure to break the will of political detainees like himself, the newspaper said.

He subsequently married and went to Britain, but retained his Singaporean citizenship.

From ‘To Be Free: Stories from Asia’s Struggle against Oppression’ (1998)
by Chee Soon Juan (Monash Asia Institute)

…Throughout the PAP’s reign, numerous Singaporeans who opposed it were arrested and suffered horrendous beatings and torture. Each time, however, the Government would deny any wrongdoing.

In 1970, the authorities decided to subject prisoners to harsh labour. The detainees refused to cooperate on the grounds that they were political prisoners, and staged a hunger strike to protest against the ill-treatment. After a few days, the guards decided to force feef them, administering vicious beating at the same time.

Ho Piao, secretary of the now banned National Seamen’s Union, who was arrested in Operation Cold Store, related his ordeal:

This whole day I was tied to a wooden chair. They pulled my hair, pressed my nose and poured water through my nose and mouth. One of the interrogators then grabbed Ho by the throat and drove his fist into his stomach. With his hands tied, his torturers continued punching his stomach. As he gasped for air, another officer laid one more punch only this time he didn’t pull back, but let his fist bear into Ho’s aching gut, cutting off his breathing. When the prisoner came close to passing out, the officer pulled back, only to have others come in to smash their knuckles into his rib cage. Another delivered a karate chop to his chest while a third hurled himself at Ho and threw the prisoner to the floor. Ho curled up as his torso and chest heaved in pain. While on the icy floor, his interrogators poured cold water on him, causing his body to go into a painful contraction. Before he could recover from the shock, the thugs bore down on him yet again, kicking and punching his head.

‘This is how we treat animals,’ one of them snarled. ‘This is an introductory gesture.’ Ho later said:

Their torture made my body feel like a corpse. I could not move. They pulled me up from the floor and tied me to the chair. Another group came to torture me. I would recognize them. They used he same method. They poured water over me 64 times. This torture went on for four days. My body was drenched and shivering. They shouted in my ears and prized open my eyes. I did not sleep or eat or drink for four days.

As he lay on the ground, one officer lifted Ho’s chin with his shoes. ‘This is a strange man, when we poured water over him, he did not shiver,’ he said. ‘But when we stopped, he started to shiver.’ The assaults stopped only when he finally lost consciousness

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