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“You are involved in communism, you are a communist, are you not?” the interrogator started off.$CUT$
“No, I am not,” Vincent Cheng said.
Without warning, the interrogator’s open palm struck the prisoner’s face. “You are a communist!” he hissed. “Say you are a communist!”
“No I am not,” Cheng mumbled. More blows shook his head.
“Fucker! You’d better confess,” a second interrogator joined in. “Get up! You communist fucker! Get up! Confess!”
“No, I told you I am not a communist. You can kill me.”
The pattern of accusation followed by denial followed by wallop continued.
The interrogator delivered another smash. “Say you are a communist!”
Cheng crashed over the chair, landing several feet away. Unable to get up for more, he finally yielded: “…ok…I will say it.”
“I want you to write about your life story,” the interrogator instructed. “Start like this: ‘I joined communism to overthrow the Singapore Government’.”
“But I didn’t,” the prisoner attempted.
“But you just confessed.”
Cheng knew that he had no way out. As he hesitated, the interrogator repeated the line, slowing down in case his captive didn’t hear every word, “I-joined-communism-to-overthrow-the-Singapore-Government.”
Cheng bowed his head and started to write the ISD’s version of his life. Day after day, he was forced to write and rewrite his confession. After the third day, he passed out, whereupon the officers took him to his cell and allowed him a two-hour respite. Then he was forced to write again for twelve-hour stretches every day, for months at a time.
When the interrogators were finally satisfied with the confession, the detainee was made to rehearse his lines. The local media was then called in.
“Smile,” a journalist encouraged as he interviewed Cheng whose minders sat just out of camera range. “Place your hands on the armrest”, “Cross your legs”, “Relax your shoulders”, “Look happy.” Several takes were necessary to capture the right mood for the cameras.
The following day, state media headlines screamed: “I CONFESS”
But it is The Real Singapore website that is engaging in irresponsible reporting and shut down.
Vincent Cheng’s account of his interrogation during his ISA detention is taken from To Be Free: Stories From Asia’s Struggle Against Oppression (1998) written by Chee Soon Juan, published by Monash Asia Institute.