Singaporean activist Jolovan Wham is to serve a ten-day jail sentence after being found guilty of organising an illegal assembly in his home country involving Hong Kong activist Joshua Wong, who took part via Skype.

The event involving Wham and Wong was held in November 2016. The Singaporean police said they had advised Wham before the event that a police permit was required permitting Wong to speak. But Wham went ahead and held the event without a permit.

Jolovan Wham
Jolovan Wham. Photo: YouTube screenshot.

Wham tweeted on Thursday that a court had dismissed his appeal under the Public Order Act. He said he would face jail rather than pay a SG$2,000 (HK$11,327) fine: “I will be serving a 10 day prison sentence starting tomorrow instead of paying the 2k fine. Thanks everyone for your support.”

Wong spoke at the conference on civil disobedience and social movements via a Skype video call. Other speakers included journalist Kirsten Han and activist Seelan Palay.

‘Totally disappointed’

According to Channel News Asia, Wham’s defence lawyer Eugene Thuraisingam argued last October the conference was just a discussion, not an event, but the prosecutor said that that it promoted “the role of civil disobedience and democracy in social change.”

In response to the case, Wong told HKFP on Friday that sharing his experiences of civil disobedience was not equal to advocating such methods: “I am totally disappointed with the court judgement, because having a Skype conference within an indoor panel discussion should not be recognised as any public assembly.”

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Joshua Wong. File Photo: May James/HKFP.

“With such a hardline crackdown on my friend, I’m really disappointed – in Southeast Asia, [the idea that] activists should have more solidarity and unity is really important,” he added.

In March, Phil Robertson – deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch – told AFP that Wham “did nothing wrong and Singapore is blatantly violating his human rights by imprisoning him.”

Anyone convicted of organising a public assembly without a police permit is liable to a fine of up to S$5,000 (around HK$29,000) under section 16(1)(a) of the Public Order Act, while repeated offenders are liable to a fine of S$10,000 (HK$58,000) and imprisonment of up to six months.

Tom founded Hong Kong Free Press in 2015 and is the editor-in-chief. In addition to editing, he is responsible for managing the newsroom and company - including fundraising, recruitment and overseeing HKFP's web presence and ethical guidelines.

He has a BA in Communications and New Media from Leeds University and an MA in Journalism from the University of Hong Kong. He previously led an NGO advocating for domestic worker rights, and has contributed to the BBC, Deutsche Welle, Al-Jazeera and others.