Dr Chee Soon Juan’s wife, Mdm Huang Chihmei, has also been questioned by the police. She is being investigated for “participating in a procession without a permit.”
She presented herself at the Toa Payoh Neighbourhood Police Centre on 14 Apr 07 to answer questions from an Inspector Daniel Wong about her involvement in the Freedom Walk on 10 Dec 06.
“I told the investigating officer that I was there to look after my children,” Mrs Chee said. She was walking with her daughters, An Lyn and E Lyn, who were distributing flyers.
“The kids had lots of fun. Besides, it was a wonderful opportunity for them to be exposed to activities of this nature,” she added. “And after all, their father was in jail then.”
In democracies, like Hong Kong for example, children as well as grandparents regularly take part in peaceful protests and processions. Families are involved in such activities which have a festive atmosphere.
Mrs Chee said that she would leave it up to the authorities to do the necessary. She is from Taiwan.
Between family and politics
Huang Chih Mei
Below is a piece that Ms Huang Chih Mei wrote in December 2006 when Dr Chee was in prison. It is reproduced here in the context of present developments.
I left Taiwan for the US to study in the 1980s, when Taiwan was still under the rule of KMT’s Chiang Ching-Kuo. I was not particularly concerned about politics, as Taiwan was a prosperous society and I didn’t really experience any hardship during my growing up years.
When I went home for holidays in-between school term, I noticed my younger brother’s computer monitor was draped with all sorts of head bands he had collected from attending various public protests, be it for “amendment of the Constitution”, “calling for direct presidential elections”, or “anti-nuclear plants”.
I was extremely uncomfortable seeing those colourful head bands and asked him, “Is it safe to go for those protests?”
My brother laughed and said, “Times have changed! It’s no big deal now.”
I asked him how he got involved in politics, or at least how he started to get interested in it. He told me that he was “too free” during his NS days and was reading newspapers all the time. It happened to be the booming period of many independent newspapers in Taiwan after the amendment of Newspaper and Printing Act.
In addition to head bands, he collected T-shirts worn during public protests. According to him, those T-shirts have now become collectors’ items. Protests were illegal then, much like it is now in Singapore. Nowadays, protest T-shirts in Taiwan are less sought after as they are printed in the thousands.
It seemed that I had missed the whole transition of Taiwan’s democratization process.
Many of my relatives praise Singapore as “very clean and orderly”. But it is also a place where my husband is in jail for the 5th time for speaking in public without a permit.
Although Soon Juan’s non-violent campaign has always been misinterpreted as “courting trouble”, the purpose of his civil action is to make a simple point that if you are not prepared to go to jail, how do you stage a public protest to pressure the government to change laws that actually work against the people.
Many Singaporeans have expressed to me their amazement at how we cope under such circumstances. Actually, the political struggle we are in does not prevent us from leading our lives the way we want to. It’s a matter of expectations. Our children know that this is part of their father’s work, so it’s nothing frightening at all.
Earlier this year, when my eldest daughter told her teacher that “my father is in jail”, her teacher was rather embarrassed. She told her quietly that “you don’t have to tell me everything, I will read the newspapers myself”.
After Soon Juan’s passport was taken away and he was prevented from leaving Singapore, I told my parents that he probably won’t be able to visit them in Taiwan for the rest of his life.
Surprisingly, my mother said, “Don’t worry. It won’t be a permanent situation. No authoritarian government is going to last forever.”
I certainly hope she is right