Singaporean gets four months jail for COVID-19 Facebook post

The Facebook post claimed the Singapore government was closing food courts and coffee shops, and supermarkets would only open two days a week. (Reuters)
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Updated 28 May 2020

Singaporean gets four months jail for COVID-19 Facebook post

  • Singapore has seen bouts of panic buying during a four-month battle with the virus
  • Offense of transmitting a false message in Singapore is punishable with a fine not exceeding $7,000 or imprisonment

SINGAPORE: Singapore jailed a taxi driver for four months on Wednesday over a Facebook post in which he falsely claimed food outlets would close and urged people to stock up due to impending COVID-19 restrictions.
Kenneth Lai Yong Hui, 40, deleted the message sent to a private Facebook group with around 7,500 members after 15 minutes, case records show, but the public prosecutor called for a sentence that would deter others.
Singapore, which has seen bouts of panic buying during a four-month battle with the virus, has imposed tough punishments on those who breach containment rules or spread misinformation as it tackles one of Asia’s highest COVID-19 rates.
“The psychological fight to allay fear and hysteria is just as important as the fight to contain the spread of COVID-19,” deputy public prosecutor Deborah Lee said in her sentencing submission, according to case records.
Lai, who represented himself and could not be reached for comment, was sentenced to four months’ jail on Wednesday, a spokesman for the State Courts said.
The offense of transmitting a false message in Singapore is punishable with a fine not exceeding $7,000 or imprisonment for a term not exceeding three years, or both.
Last month, a man who broke quarantine with 30 minutes remaining to buy a flatbread worth a few dollars was fined $1,000. Another man who breached an order to stay home to eat pork rib soup was jailed for six weeks.
According to case records, police received a complaint on April 20 about Lai’s post which said the government was closing food courts and coffee shops, and supermarkets would only open two days a week.
“Better go stock up your stuff for the next month or so,” the post said, on which people commented urging him not to spread such rumors.


Over 200,000 vote in Hong Kong’s pro-democracy primaries

Updated 20 min 5 sec ago

Over 200,000 vote in Hong Kong’s pro-democracy primaries

  • Exercise being held two weeks after Beijing imposed a sweeping national security law on the semi-autonomous territory

HONG KONG: Hundreds of thousands of Hong Kongers turned up over the weekend to vote in an unofficial two-day primary election held by the city’s pro-democracy camp as it gears up to field candidates for an upcoming legislative poll.
The exercise is being held two weeks after Beijing imposed a sweeping national security law on the semi-autonomous territory in a move widely seen as chipping away at the “one country, two systems” framework under which Britain handed Hong Kong over to China in 1997. It was passed in response to last year’s massive protests calling for greater democracy and more police accountability.
Throngs of people lined up at polling booths in the summer heat to cast their vote despite a warning by Hong Kong’s constitutional affairs minister, Eric Tsang last week that the primaries could be in breach of the new national security law, because it outlaws interference and disruption of duties by the local government.
Organizers have dismissed the comments, saying they just want to hold the government accountable by gaining a majority in the legislature.
The legislation prohibits what Beijing views as secessionist, subversive or terrorist activities or as foreign intervention in Hong Kong affairs. Under the law, police now have sweeping powers to conduct searches without warrants and order Internet service providers and platforms to remove messages deemed to be in violation of the legislation.
On Friday, police raided the office of the Public Opinion Research Institute, a co-organizer of the primary elections. The computer system was suspected of being hacked, causing a data leak, police said in a statement, and an investigation is ongoing.
Hong Kong’s pro-democracy camp, which includes multiple parties, is attempting to join forces and use the primaries as a guide to field the best candidates in the official legislative election in September. Its goal is to win a majority in the legislature, which is typically skewed toward the pro-Beijing camp.
To hold the primary elections, pro-democracy activists had raised money via crowd funding. They pledged to veto the government’s budget if they clinch a majority in the legislature. Under the Basic Law, under which Hong Kong is governed, city leader Carrie Lam must resign if an important bill such as the budget is vetoed twice.
On Saturday alone, nearly 230,000 people voted at polling booths set up across the city, exceeding organizers’ estimates of a 170,000 turnout over the weekend.