The National University of Singapore (NUS) stands accused of editing a death penalty protest placard from a student’s graduation photo and livestream. The school told HKFP that the event was “not a forum for advocacy.”

Luke Levy’s protest at the NUS. Photo: AngMohSnowball, via Twitter.

During his graduation ceremony earlier this month, Luke Levy, held up a sign saying “Abolish the death penalty. No to state murder. End poverty, not life. Blood on your hands.”

“I held that sign as I walked on stage, took my on-stage photo, and left the stage, sign in hand… NUS took down the live recording of my commencement ceremony, only to reupload it later with an edit,” Levy said in a tweet.

“In the official stage photograph (that I paid for, for my own private display), the photo studio actually took time to try and edit the words on my sign out,” the 25-year-old activist added.

It comes as Singapore executed its fifth prisoner since March, following a Covid-related pause. In April, the authorities killed a mentally impaired man, as last-ditch appeals for clemency were rejected by the court. The spate of hangings has prompted a fresh wave of criticism and protests.

Levy added that the death penalty “unjustly kills the poor. It is not an effective deterrent of ‘crime’. And there’s no acquittal for those found innocent after execution.”

In response to HKFP’s enquiries, a university spokesperson told HKFP: “The NUS Commencement is an important ceremony celebrating the achievements of our 13,975 graduates and the completion of their NUS journey. All graduates and guests are expected to conduct themselves appropriately during the occasion. It is not a forum for advocacy.”

Gardens by the Bay in Singapore. Photo: James Faulkner, via Flickr.

According to Today Online, police are looking into the protest. It cited lawyers as saying the activist may be liable under the Public Order Act, which restricts even single-person protests in public.

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Tom is the editor-in-chief and founder of Hong Kong Free Press. He has a BA in Communications and New Media from Leeds University and an MA in Journalism from the University of Hong Kong. He has contributed to the BBC, Euronews, Al-Jazeera and others.