Singapore police make their presence felt in book launch

12 July 2005

Police harassed guests and organizers of a book launch in Singapore over the weekend, reports coming from the city state say.

During the launch on 9 July of the latest book by Singapore opposition leader Chee Soon Juan, plainclothes officers were seen videotaping the proceedings. The website of the Singapore Democratic Party noted that after the book launch, policemen questioned guests and confiscated videos on nonviolent protests screened during the event.

On 11 July, a report on Todayonline.com said Dr. Chee’s book, “The Power of Courage: Effecting Political Change in Singapore through Nonviolence”, was launched with an indoor public talk at Singapore’s Grand Plaza Park Royal Hotel. About 50 people were in attendance, the online news site said, and “police arrived after receiving word that video images had been screened.”

Todayonline.com said the video was of “Hong Kong residents protesting peaceably against a proposed anti-subversion law”. The footage was projected onto a screen as Dr. Chee autographed copies of his book.

Police spokesperson ASP Victor Keong was quoted by Today as saying: “During the event, a video disc was screened to the public. As the disc did not possess a certificate for public exhibition, it was seized under the Films Act for investigation.”

Singapore maintains restrictions on public assemblies, even as licensing rules for indoor public talks were supposedly eased last year. Todayonline noted that Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, in his National Day Rally, said he wanted to encourage greater freedom of expression.

Singapore, however, retains a tight and short leash on all forms of mass media. Government officials earlier this year pulled a documentary on the life of Dr. Chee from a film festival. Chee himself faces bankruptcy proceedings in Singapore after being charged with defamation over criticisms he aired against the government when he ran for a parliamentary seat last year. The government meanwhile controls practically all the major print and broadcast media, and it closely monitors content on websites based in or pertaining to Singapore.

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