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Representatives of the Civil Human Rights Front in Hong Kong staged a protest on 20 Sep 05 outside the Singapore Consulate. The group wanted to deliver a letter that called on the Singapore Government to respect the rights of Singaporeans. Initially the Consulate did not want to accept the letter in front of reporters and cameras. After some argument, however, officials of the Consulate reluctantly came out to take the letter from the Hong Kong protesters.
We would like to protest the fact that a video, entitled July which documented the demonstration of 1 July 2003 in Hong Kong, was seized by the Singapore police when it was shown at a recent book launch in Singapore.
According to the report in the Straits Times on 10 July and 12 July 2005, there were about 50 persons attending the launching of Dr Chee Soon Juan’s latest book, The Power of Courage, on 9 July 2005.
Dr Chee’s book is about the non-violent approach to changing Singapore’s authoritarian system while the video showed Hong Kong’s peaceful demonstration against the Article 23 where 500,000 people from all walks of life gathered on the streets to protest against the Article. The 1 July’s demonstration was a big success. Not only there was no violence, the Hong Kong government subsequently backed down on its intention to go ahead with the legislation. We consider it most appropriate that this video was shown at a book launch that promoted such civil action.
As the organizer of Hong Kong’s July demonstration we are clear about the objective of our actions. At the same time we are equally proud that our efforts can be a form of contribution to our counterparts in Singapore in that it serves as an example on how non-violent civil action can effect changes in an authoritarian system.
The seizure of the video shows the Singapore Government’s authoritarian style and its high-handedness in handling events like the one at the book launch. We understand that plain-clothes police were present and filmed all the proceedings, and that it was only after the reporters left that the police seized the video and began taking down names and particulars of the participants.
We further question the need for a permit to be issued for showing merely parts of the video which was attended by 50 persons. In fact, as we understand it, the audio for the video was not even on when it was played as Dr Chee was signing his books.
Mr President, as a human rights organization, we would like to protest the handling of the above-mentioned video, as well as register our utmost concerns for the rights of Singaporeans. We appeal to your office to release the video for future public viewing and to improve on the human rights records in Singapore.
Civil Human Rights Front
Contact person: Lee Wen-Yi