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Hong Kong localism and independence

Singapore activist ‘questioned by police’ over hosting public talk with Hong Kong’s Joshua Wong without work permit

Organiser of discussion on social movements quizzed by city-state’s police after Hong Kong activist took part via Skype without work permit

PUBLISHED : Friday, 23 December, 2016, 3:13pm
UPDATED : Friday, 23 December, 2016, 11:07pm

A Singaporean activist has said he was questioned by the police there for hosting a forum without obtaining a work permit for ­Joshua Wong Chi-fung, who participated via Skype.

Writing on his Facebook page on Thursday night, Jolovan Wham said Singapore’s police “finally got me down to take a statement for organising” the talk on November 26 as the permit was required for a foreign speaker to take part in any public talk.

Wham said he did not obtain the work permit as well as a police permit also needed for the event, but added that “my ­co-organiser Rachel Zeng and I went ahead anyway because it was a harmless and straightforward discussion about social movements”.

The human rights activist and social worker affiliated to the ­Singapore-based Community ­Action Network told the Post: “The Singapore government should abolish such regulations. It is not befitting a country which claims to be a multicultural and cosmopolitan city.”

During the talk on civil disobedience last month, Wong, 20, shared his experience in political and social activism for 19 minutes through Skype, and also took part in a discussion which lasted for about an hour.

The talk was broadcast live on Facebook, with the video attracting about 5,400 views so far.

Wong, who co-led the Occupy movement in Hong Kong in 2014 and is one of the city’s most recognised pro-democracy activists, believes it is “extremely unreasonable” for the Singapore police to require a talk’s organiser to apply for a work permit for a speaker like him to speak through Skype.

“If even a telephone conference requires a work permit, how many commercial organisations in Singapore would have breached the rule?” Wong asked.

Watch: Joshua Wong speaks at the forum in Singapore

“It just shows that the Singapore government is an autocracy which is afraid of its people having contact with activist groups, especially from East Asia.”

Love him or loathe him, Joshua Wong keeps Hong Kong in global political spotlight

In May, Wong was denied entry into Malaysia, with the ­police chief there later saying the country did not want him to ­jeopardise its ties with China.

Then in October, Wong, as secretary general of localist party Demosisto, flew to Bangkok to ­deliver a speech on democracy to Thai students, but was denied entry and detained at the airport for 12 hours before being sent back to Hong Kong.

Wong told the Post that after these two incidents, he had declined Wham’s invitation for him to fly to Singapore, and decided to speak through Skype instead.

“I will continue to welcome ­invitations from around the world, but I will explain to them what has happened before ... ­because I don’t want anyone to face suppression because of me.”

Last month, Wong was criticised by the foreign ministry in Beijing for penning an opinion piece with a fellow activist in The Wall Street Journal which called on Hongkongers to fight for the right to self-determination.

Calls for independence and self-determination have become sensitive issues for the governments in Beijing and Hong Kong.

Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying has brought a court case to disqualify four lawmakers, including Demosisto head Nathan Law Kwun-chung, over the way they took their oaths in October.

The High Court earlier barred two pro-independence candidates from taking up their seats.

The Singapore police would only say that “a report has been lodged and investigations are ­ongoing”. The Ministry of Communications and Information did not respond to Post inquiries, while the country’s Ministry of Home Affairs could not be reached for comment.