GEORGE TOWN, May 28 ― Malaysia is more tolerable of dissent compared to Singapore although Putrajaya barred entry to Hong Kong Umbrella Revolution activist Joshua Wong, Singaporean activist Han Hui Hui has said.
The 23-year-old, who is in Malaysia to give a series of talks on youth activism in remembrance of the bloody Tiananmen Square 1989 crackdown in China, said Singapore would not allow foreign speakers in for such talks.
“So speaking as a Singaporean, I feel Malaysia is still much better than Singapore because in Singapore, we are not allowed to invite foreigners to speak in the country unless they are going to praise the PAP government,” Han toldMalay Mail Online in an interview.
The youth activist pointed out that despite the deportation of Wong, who had planned to give the talks along with her in Malaysia, she was allowed to come here even though her event was not pro-government.
“In Singapore, even if you want to invite a Singaporean to speak, they want to know who it is before allowing the event,” Han said.
She said it was wrong and against human rights for Malaysia to expel Wong, but acknowledged the geopolitical ramifications surrounding the pro-democracy student leader’s presence here.
“It simply means China is a big power here and we can’t deny that,” she said.
Inspector-General of Police (IGP) Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar has described Wong as an “undesirable” person and said the activist was expelled Tuesday over concerns that the 18-year-old could risk Malaysia-China ties.
Wong is widely regarded as the impetus behind the 2014 mass protests in Hong Kong to demand the right to directly elect the head of the semi-autonomous administrative region. He was named amongTIME Magazine’s “Most Influential Teens of 2014”.
Han shared her experiences in organising “events”, albeit protests, in Singapore during her talk at the “Uprising of Youth and New Social Activism in Singapore and Hong Kong Forum” here Tuesday night.
“I wouldn’t call what I held in Singapore ‘protests’ but ‘events’ because we have not had any protests in the past 50 years and it is illegal,” she said.
Several street demonstrations have been organised in Malaysia, however, although the police have cracked down on mass rallies like the Bersih protests for free and fair elections. But some other rallies have been allowed to go on peacefully.
Han has been organising protests since 2013 over issues like the Singapore government’s alleged mishandling of the Central Provident Fund (CPF), which is the country’s retirement scheme, the education system and rising unemployment.
She, along with five others, was arrested in September last year for organising an illegal protest over the CPF issue and charged with causing a public nuisance.
Han told Malay Mail Online that her talks in Penang, Ipoh, Johor and Kuala Lumpur this week aimed to encourage millennials, or those born in the 1990s, to get involved in activism.
“We can’t be allowing those born in the 1950s, 1960s, 1970s to continue to plan policies. They can’t plan out an education system that will fit the times. Ultimately, it is the people who had went (sic) through the system now and will know whether it is good or bad,” she said.