Free Speech Activist Ejected from Parliamentary Hearing in Singapore

Published April 3, 2018

Han Hui Hui, a 26-year-old blogger from Singapore, was forcefully removed from a Select Committee hearing in Parliament by Singaporean officials on Thursday, March 29. The public hearing on “Deliberate Online Falsehoods” was scheduled from March 26 to March 29 to discuss Singapore’s new cybersecurity law, which was passed by Parliament in February of this year.

On the last day of the hearing, Hui Hui was seen in the audience, holding up a book titled, “Authoritarian Rule of Law – Legislation, Discourse and Legitimacy in Singapore.” On her blog, Hui Hui says she entered the room with what she was allowed to bring: 20 sheets of scrap paper and a pencil. When authorities asked for these items from her, Hui Hui explained that she “didn’t want to create a scene,” and handed over the items.

Hui Hui gives Loa her version of the story via text message: “After I gave the police my writing materials, they refused to let me listen to the hearing and manhandled me out of the room. There were three police officers, one grabbed my left arm, the other on my right arm and a third on my legs.” The officers reportedly dropped Hui Hui several times, exposing her body in the process.

Three officers carrying Han Hui Hui out of the public hearing. Han Hui Hui’s  Blog .

Three officers carrying Han Hui Hui out of the public hearing. Han Hui Hui’s Blog.

After being carried out of the hearing, Hui Hui was locked in a room with ten police officers, while reporters waited outside. Hui Hui claims during this time, she asked for water and to use the toilet, but the officers refused. She then proceeded to use the toilet with two officers watching her during the process. An hour later, Hui Hui was moved to another room for interrogation. Hui Hui was eventually released, after spending more than three hours being interrogated.

The officer’s mistreatment left her bloodied and bruised. In a text message to Loa, Hui Hui describes her injuries, which included scratches on her back, bruises on her arms, and bleeding where her skin had torn. Hui Hui believes video clips of the hearing were not released because they would show officers dropping her to the floor repeatedly.

This was not the first time Hui Hui has been detained by Singaporean police officers. In 2014, Hui Hui was detained and interrogated for eight hours regarding her participation in a march. During the interrogation, her notebook was seized and Hui Hui was not given access to legal counsel.

Singapore’s press freedom status is “not free” according to Freedom House, an independent watchdog organization. Hui Hui explained to Loa in a prior interview, that protests can only occur in a designated park and need to be registered in advance: “You have to either give a speech, or you’re holding a protest, or you’re singing, which is performance. You can only click one of the options. But, if you click speech, you will be charged for demonstration. And if you click demonstration and give a speech, you will be charged for giving a speech.”

On March 6, Hui Hui was invited via email to give oral evidence at the public hearing, which she accepted in order to voice her concerns about the status of free expression in Singapore. She was scheduled to speak on March 27, but the day before, she was informed her testimony would be pushed back. She was continually rescheduled until ultimately, Hui Hui was informed she would no longer be speaking. She instead decided to attend the public hearing as an audience member.