Why S’poreans should pay attention to the Falungong case

September 1, 2006
Singapore Democrats

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The on-going saga between the Singapore Government and the Falungong is something that Singaporeans should pay greater attention to.

The Singapore Democrats have been reporting on the trial of two Singaporean Falungong followers who have been charged with displaying “insulting writing” during a protest against the Chinese Government for persecuting their fellow practitioners.

This is not because the SDP is promoting a certain religion (in fact, practitioners say that Falungong is not a religion but more a way of life). The SDP is a secular party with members belonging to various faiths and some who are atheists. It does not subscribe to any one religion.

This present matter, however, is not about the Falungong or the promotion of it. It is about the freedom to speak up when one sees one’s fellow human beings being tortured and persecuted; it is about giving protection to those who have pointed out the injustice of cruel governments; it is about human decency.

Whether one is a Buddhist, Taoist, Muslim, Hindu, Christian, etc. one should not suppress another person’s right to believe in what she wants to, much less torture her for her beliefs and practices.

What’s going on?

Sadly, this is what has been happening to the Falungong practitioners. Since the trial started for Mdm Ng Chye Huay and Mr Erh Boon Tiong, highly questionable practices by the Singaporean authorities have been noted.

First, there was the confiscation of the photographs of tortured Falungong practitioners from defence lawyer Mr M Ravi by the police. This is unheard of and in breach of legal principles. The photographs were needed for the defence to substantiate its case.

Then there was the denial of time for the defence to properly admit a UN report as an exhibit that would have pancaked the prosecution’s case (see below). The report documents the torture and persecution of followers of Falungong in China.

Third, the state media made misrepresentations of the proceedings in court. When these were pointed out by the SDP and when the reporter was subpoenaed to explain the errors, they became absent for the following day’s hearing.

Fourth, Falungong observers and supporters have been harassed by the police. (This will be the subject of another report.)

Mr Ravi was then forced to make application after objection in a bid to present his arguments but to no avail. In the end, he had no choice but to apply to discharge himself from the case.

The accused persons, Mdm Ng Chye Huay and Mr Erh Boon Tiong, have now been given until Monday, 4 September 2006 – all of one working day – to find another lawyer.

Singapore versus the world

The case hinges on the fact that the words displayed on the banner “Stop persecution of Falun Gong in China” during the protest were “insulting”, presumably of the Chinese Government.

The police witness also testified that words were insulting because the allegation of “persecution” was not factual.

This flies in the face of extensive documentation of the persecution of Falungong people. A United Nations report states plainly: “Religious minorities are affected primarily by the threat to their very existence as special communities, as exemplified by…the campaigns of repression against members of Falun Gong.”

United States President George W Bush said: “We have repeatedly stressed to the Chinese Government that there is no justification for its brutal repression of Falun Gong.”

Canadian MPs, Mr David Kilgour and Mr David Matas, wrote in their investigation: “We have concluded that the government of China and its agencies in numerous parts of the country, in particular hospitals but also detention centres and ‘people’s courts’, since 1999 have put to death a large but unknown number of Falun Gong prisoners of conscience.”

The US Congress passed a resolution which stated that “the Government of the People’s Republic of China should cease its persecution of Falun Gong practitioners.”

Several Falungong practitioners whose family members were the victims of torture by the Chinese Government are here in Singapore to testify at the trial. One of them, Mdm Jane Dai an Australian, is one of them. Her husband, a Falungong follower, was tortured and killed.

Perhaps our Government knows something that the United Nations, President George Bush, the US Congress, Canadian MPs and the victims’ family members don’t.

Where’s the beef?

If there is even a hint of persecution of Falungong practitioners in China, it creates a reasonable doubt that what the Singapore police says is true. In such a scenario can the charge of “harassment by displaying insulting writing” hold?

To rebut the prosecution’s case the defence must be able to show that there is in fact a large amount of documentation of Falungong practitioners being persecuted.

Therein lies the problem. The DPP has vehemently objected to the UN report mentioned above being admitted as an exhibit. The judge has agreed with the DPP. Mr Ravi has found it possible to proceed without the exhibit.

The defence is also saying that the charge is politically motivated. That is to say that the Singapore Government is under pressure to take action against the two Singaporeans.

If this is shown to be true in court, this matter is gravely significant to Singaporeans. It goes to the heart of what being a sovereign nation and protecting our citizens first and foremost is all about. Is the Singapore Government looking after its own citizens?

Follow this trial when it resumes on Monday, Singaporeans. It concerns us as much as it concerns Mdm Ng and Mr Erh.

Perhaps, this is a good time to remind everyone of the poem that Pastor Martin Niemoller wrote:

When the Nazis came for the communists,

I remained silent;

I was not a communist.

When they locked up the social democrats,
I remained silent;
I was not a social democrat.

When they came for the trade unionists,
I did not speak out;
I was not a trade unionist.

When they came for me,
there was no one left to speak out.