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  • Aug 1, 2014
  • Updated: 5:20am
NewsHong Kong

Activists slam Singapore crackdown on Chinese strikers

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 05 December, 2012, 6:50pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 05 December, 2012, 8:00pm

Activists expressed outrage on Wednesday over Singapore’s crackdown on Chinese bus drivers who staged the city-state’s first industrial strike in 26 years to demand better pay and conditions.

The two-day work stoppage last week at state-linked transport firm SMRT, declared illegal by the Singapore government, has resulted in the deportation of 29 drivers and a six-week jail term for one driver.

Four other arrested drivers, who have been remanded for a week, are expected to be produced in court on Thursday, with each facing a maximum one-year jail term and a possible S$2,000 (US$1,640) penalty if found guilty of involvement in the strike.

The Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development, which represents 47 non-governmental organisations from 16 Asian countries, urged the release of the jailed and remanded drivers and demanded that charges against them be dropped.

“We condemn the Singapore government’s criminalisation of the exercise of fundamental rights by the bus drivers who went on strike,” said the Bangkok-based group’s executive director Yap Swee Seng.

“The swift and harsh actions overlook the bases of their complaints about wage discrepancies and poor housing.”

The crackdown was also denounced by dozens of labour rights activists in Hong Kong who protested outside the Singapore consulate, with minor scuffles breaking out with security guards as they tried to enter the property.

The protesters in the southern Chinese city called on Singapore to drop the charges against the strikers and free the jailed driver.

Alex Au, treasurer of labour rights group Transient Workers Count Too (TCW 2) in Singapore, expressed dismay at the “heavy-handedness involved in prosecuting five workers and deporting 29 others”.

Au told reporters the government’s “zero tolerance” for illegal strikes implies that it was “not prepared to recognise that the workers had legitimate grievances”.

SMRT has promised to look into the Chinese strikers’ demands, fumigate their bedbug-infested dormitory rooms and find them better housing but the government has vowed to take “firm action” against any future illegal strikes.

Last week’s strike, the first in Singapore since 1986, has highlighted the country’s heavy dependence on migrant labour to drive its economic growth amid a labour shortage resulting from falling birth rates.

Strikes are illegal for workers in “essential services” such as transport unless they give 14 days’ prior notice and meet other requirements.

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may.l.cheong.1
Singapore is a SOVEREIGN state, and she does not need anyone to dictate to her how to run the country.
pangkf
Wow, sounds mighty. So scary!
Lyeanthony
Why do we need to protest against the right of another government to adminster their own law? I think these protesters should worry more about what is going on in HK as opposed to 'making silly' noise about the Spore govt. From feedback given in the publicly available forum in Singapore it is very obvious that almost all Sporeans felt that these Chinese opt to be thought a lesson pertaining to respecting law and order in a foreign land. In the first place, nobody forced the Chinese to work in Singapore. Hence, if they are unhappy they can pack and go back to China end of story. But to instigate a strike so as to damage a public service eg buses to air personal grievances is breaking the law and baribarian to say the least.
low_cn
I need to set the record straight that the Singapore government is elected by the people every 5 years. In the last election they secured about 60% of the popular votes. It is therefore a democratically elected government. It is a misconception of many ignorant Hong Kong people that Singapore is a dictatorship.
The action to charge the 5 strikers and deport 29 others have the overwhelming support of the people. Just check the online chats.
pangkf
Only election may not fully represent democracy and freedom of one country. I can't understand why the strikers need to be arrested unless they break a law. And I don't think that merely strike is illegal in one country with real democracy and freedom.
may.l.cheong.1
Singapore does not need you to impose your views in her.
pangkf
Funny statement. Please repsect freedom of speech. That's all.
low_cn
They have indeed broken the law. Otherwise how can they be charged in court. Well there is rule of law in a democracy. Due process must be followed before one can go on strike. This applies not only to Singapore but other countries like UK, Australia etc. One cannot and should not break the law in the name of freedom.
Hong Kong has no democracy and has to learn to know the freedom of true democracy.
pangkf
Obviously it is kind of discrimination. Their government is a dictator, and the place has no democracy!
norodnik
When you import bolsheviks you should expect a little turbulence....

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