10 July 2006

Mr Brown's Supporters

ST July 10, 2006
Cops looking into gathering in support of mr brown

By Aaron Low

THE police are looking into a gathering of 30 people who turned up wearing brown to support blogger mr brown at City Hall MRT station yesterday afternoon.

Those interviewed said they had come in response to an SMS message that had circulated over the weekend, after the free newspaper Today had suspended his weekly column.

The text message had asked people to wear brown and head for City Hall MRT station at 2pm yesterday, to protest against the 'Government-imposed blackout'.

At about 2pm, The Straits Times found about 30 people standing in groups of four to five, talking and laughing just outside the station. They were mostly in their 20s and 30s, and most had come alone. Also present was a Canadian family of three, a mother and her two teenage daughters.

There were no posters, banners or placards, but artist Zai Kuning, 44, came in a brown T-shirt which said 'I am fed up with progress' on the back.

That was referring to the headline of mr brown's June 30 article, 'Singaporeans are fed, up with progress', that drew criticism from the Government.

Mr Zai said: 'I don't really read mr brown's online postings or his columns but...I wanted to show my support for him because what happened to him was unfair.'

Mr brown is the moniker of full-time writer and blogger Lee Kin Mun, 36. In a letter published in Today on July 3, the Government criticised his last piece on the high cost of living here.

The newspaper then suspended the column, sparking online postings late last week by bloggers and netizens, mostly critical of the freesheet's move.

Yesterday, Mr Lee said through his friend, Mr Edmund Tan, 37, who runs a studio that produces content for mr brown's website, that he knew about the SMS asking people to go to City Hall MRT station but was not the one who initiated it.

'We are touched by the gesture and we hope that nobody gets into trouble because of us,' said Mr Tan.

Some police officers were on patrol at City Hall MRT yesterday but they did not approach any of the people dressed in brown or tell them to disperse. By 2.20pm, people began wandering off, and by 2.40pm, it was over.

It is illegal to organise an assembly of five or more people to support or protest something without a permit.

The police confirmed that nobody was arrested. A spokesman said: 'The police are aware of the incident and we are looking into it.'
Technorati: .

Background Reading: Unlawful Assembly; another of Mr Wang's old posts on the same topic; and (gasp!) a PAP minister saying that sometimes, public demonstrations in Singapore are okay!. Click to find out more.


Anonymous said...

Mr Wang,

I am curious. The law did not seem to throw details on the following:

What happens if there are clusters of four? say, within a certain radius of each other?

I vaguely remember having read that Singaporeans need to obtain a permit to wear T-shirt designs of the same if they intend to assemble at one place. Does the law include this too?

If so, does it extend to other forms of attire? hats, caps, lipstick or even hair colour? How about tattoos?

Or all these are covered under the famous Sedition Act?

I am beginning to regret not doing my law degree. In Singapore, it has more influence on our everyday lives than I assumed.

Anonymous said...

Wondering where I could study part-time law degree. Ignorance is not bliss in Spore. I feel really handicapped and at mercy of some people.

chemgen said...

I'm not sure whether the gathering is a flash mob or not, not that it really matters in terms of its message, but it is a positive sign of Singaporeans actually stepping up to take a stand on a political issue.

The puzzle for me is why did the media report this when it only served to keep the matter alive? The media usually downplays anything that casts the government in a bad light. So are there factions in the media who are deliberately trying to show its scorn of MICA's statement about the role of the media by reporting news of public support for Mr Brown? Interesting games being played as the pieces are moved round and round the board, or perhaps I simply have a wild imagination.

Cobalt Paladin said...

The other time when there was a mobile phone video of a few girls attacking a school girl at HDB Staircase landing, the police spokesman Cheryl Foo said: 'The police will look into the matter when a report is lodged.'

This time, a spokesman said: 'The police are aware of the incident and we are looking into it.'

I wonder if anyone lodged a report? If no, then why is the polic investigating this time?

le radical galoisien said...

Well there could be "spontaneous demonstrations". But to organise groups of four to demonstrate out of sight from each other but almost covering all streets would in fact be quite effective.

I think we need to go for a mix of demonstration types - ie. cohort of the four-person groups, as well as the 30 people who showed up.

I wished I was there...it must have been fun.

le radical galoisien said...

"Wondering where I could study part-time law degree. Ignorance is not bliss in Spore. I feel really handicapped and at mercy of some people."

To represent yourself, or to avoid getting into court in the first place?

I think the second you can always self-study (with a law group perhaps)...we can form an organisation to help Singaporeans on political issues and advise them on their rights for free?

Anthony said...

Please be careful if you intend to set out any sort of website involving legal advice, especially if you're not already a practising lawyer.

It's against the law to practice law without a bar license in Singapore.

It's not that I don't see the merit in this btw, but it's honestly another instrument authorities can bring to bear against you.

Anonymous said...

Why are the police "investigating" this when they are keeping quiet about the 100+ tution mamas who were allowed to congregate en masse in front of an embassy? Note also it was embassy staff who pursuaded the China women to disperse, not fully geared up riot police.

Anonymous said...

Different laws for different folks in Singapore.

For example, you can protest during the IMF/World Bank meet but I guess you must be native speakers first.

I tell myself not to accidentally end up in such a crowd while having lunch when Sept comes. The angmohs may be spared but I will probably end up at Changi.

Sinaporeans are dirt cheap in Singapore.

Anonymous said...

Now let's see whether there is a light touch or otherwise. Was a video made of the gathering?

Why no action on those chinese nationals? And annoy china?

This is so sad. But so far we still seem to be in the "light touch" stage. Believe me, suspending Lee is light. When it is heavy, you'll know it.

What Lee should do now is grovel to Mica, and apply to join PAP next election. He's so popular and the PAP would love to have one of the opposition as theirs.

That would be the most rewarding course for him.

Cobalt Paladin said...

But PAP wouldn't want him as he is unlikely to meet their profile of elites and talents.

singaporean said...

Anonymous, you worry too much! The gahmen wont do anything to you as long as there are angmos present. Even in the brown t-shirt case, you do notice there was a Canadian family present, presumably angmo, hence no action.

When "counter-fixing" the government, staying within the boundaries of the law will help you squat. They can still irritate you by arresting you without giving any reason and then releasing you within the next 48(?) hours. In fact, this is a frequent police tactic when it is difficult to prove charges against a large crowd suspected of say, illegal betting.
You will know how tough you are after spending a night with cockroaches crawling all over you, lying on a floor still smelling of puke.

Oh, and the PAP MP doesnt need popularity. Why bother when there is a free ride on the GRC minibus?

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

hey this weekend i am having a gathering at east coast park, estimated at least 30 ppl will turn up and we will try to wear the same colour beach outfit. Will the police come and "look into it" too? LOL

Anonymous said...


Excerpts from the AFP:

Supporters of a Singaporean blogger have gathered at a busy subway station for a silent protest at the suspension of his weekly newspaper column after the government criticised his latest satirical piece about high living costs.

At least 30 supporters turned up at City Hall station at 2:00 pm dressed in brown attire in support of the blogger, who goes by the moniker Mr Brown.

Unfortunately for the news wire agency, the real news wasn't that 30 people in Singapore bothered to take part in a flash mob for a proscribed blogger-columnist. I could think of several more newsworthy stories on the top of my head, such as:

How did a secret SMS-only invite leak out to the press, which turned up in battle positions and recording equipment shoved up the noses of participants, even before the flash mob was scheduled to begin?

Or how's this for a more newsworthy story:
Plainclothes police accost flash mob participants at end of event

At least 2 participants were approached Citylink mall by 4 plainclothes police operatives after the flash mob event concluded. The operatives presented themselves to the duo, requesting a "short and private discussion at a more private place".

The operatives, marshalled in a line formation, herded the two to a remote corner of the underground mall, where they proceeded to ask the following questions:
Who organised this protest?
How did you know about this protest?
What are the names of the people who informed you of this protest? What are the names of the people you informed, in turn?

And the winner: Look, we know all about this protest. You better cooperate with us and tell us the truth.

Thankfully one of the cornered persons did read up on his rights, as well as the extent of cooperation citizens are bound to give to plainclothes operatives presenting themselves without a warrant or charges, and gave them his name, his lawyer's contacts, and told them to fuck off.

Several, even more newsworthy issues present themselves in the aftermath:
1. Flash mob sparks police actions by government
2. Seeing the flash mob as a bona fide protest, Wong Kan Seng, the Minister for Home Affairs, does not send in the riot police.
3. Instead, the clown show is mobilised.

Apparently there is no formal investigation, no indication that said flash mob is an illegal and destablising event, so what the MHA and Wong can do is send in the clown squad and hope that the idea of plainclothes operatives asking questions and claiming to know everything about the event... will actually scare off the participants, make them piss in their pants, and scar them for life. Remember, kids: for real protests and destabilising events, the riot police is used. When the authorities want to stage a political comedy, they send in plainclothes operatives!

But really, this flash mob was rather lame. People showed up and stood around. No silly waving, cheers, synchronised actions or what have you. No immediate and sudden dispersal. And the best part? People who didn't get the message won't get the message at all. So much for a flash mob for Mr Brown.

Don't get me started on the organiser's horrendously unironic satorical decision wear brown shirts to support a columnist who was unfairly axed. This is what you get when Singapore's artistes pose as political activists.

Ladies and gentlemen, the continuing clown show from Wong Kan Seng. As if the dropping of the police investigation against Char isn't embarrassing enough, they send in a clown show against a not-very-successful or well-planned and conceptualised flash mob.

Anonymous said...

I have a number of posts over at my blog over this whole mr brown issue.

The latest is a posting by jeff ooi of screenshot. His post talks about the brown affair and he has a photo of some of the brave individuals who did the silent protest.

I don't think the cops will do anything to these people. Look, the state dug a hole when MICA's press sec opened her mouth the way she did. And vivian balakrishnan dug the hole deeper with his comments as well. They keep digging their holes deeper. Do remember the upcoming world bank/IMF meeting in Sept as well where there'll be foreign protesters and the whole world's keeping an eye on Singapore. So i don't think our very own silent protesters will get into any trouble.

Anyway, we'll wait and see what happens. :)

Anonymous said...

Again the double-standards by our law enforcement.

China peidu mamas involved in illegal assembly outside China Embassy
==> Police "monitoring" the crowd, no action taken.

Flash Mob at City Hall MRT station
==> Harassment by plainsclothes police officers.

Moral of the story - if you are from PRC and do an illegal assembly in front of Chinese Embassy, no worries because the MFA will advise MHA not to start an international "incident" by detaining their citizens in front of their own diplomatic mission. There would be a lot of diplomatic notes to be exchanged if that happened.

Much less paper work in harassing our own citizens...and helps to keep the populace in check.

Gilbert Koh aka Mr Wang said...

I don't really think that the police harassed anyone at City Hall.

le radical galoisien said...

"Please be careful if you intend to set out any sort of website involving legal advice, especially if you're not already a practising lawyer."

Well, you could always do the IANAL disclaimer, but the point is more of asking Singaporeans, "what's a good course of action to take?" in terms of the line between breaking the law and making a statement.

Since I suspect it's some informal briefings about legal rights then I really don't think it's an issue, if it is done for free.

How is asking advice on "is it safe to hold the demonstration here or not?" illegal? (Well I guess since it suggests breaking the law to hold the demonstration, but besides that.)

Radikaz said...


hee, this incident was also picked up by The Inquirer, a IT sites.

Looks like Mr Brown's dismissal from Today after writting his satirical article will be known throughout the world, what a shame indeed.

Anonymous said...

The reason for the news being publicise about the event and most importantly that police are looking for the participants is a veiled warning that "the govt is always watching, the govt will not tolerate protest or dissent, and dont try to be a smart alec and go support Mr Brown"

Anthony said...


What amounts to the practice of law essentially comes down to whether it requires the professional judgment of a lawyer.

The legal test is nebulous, yes, but I'm fairly certain it covers websites that seek to inform others of legal rights - especially if it is in the context of applying a specific fact scenario to the law.

Especially if it's a "best course of action" type analysis.

I do understand it's entirely ludicrous in the context of one friend asking another friend "Eh, I ask 5 other friends out. Riot or not har?"

On the other hand, if you set up a website on Singapore law, that obviously becomes a much bigger target than your average Joe down the street.

I bring this up because of anecdotal evidence of legal information websites closed down by law society for this precise reason. I've never been able to verify with Law Soc whether they do actually prosecute such cases, but it would explain the dearth of such websites.

Joseph Chiang said...

i wonder what would have happened if 300 turned up in brown instead of 30? if the sms had gone to more people, that is a real possibility.