SINGAPORE: Stop Demanding Social Media Posts Removal and Threatening Human Rights Defender Han Hui Hui
Han Hui Hui is a human rights fellow at the University of York in England and active blogger in Singapore who use her blog and social media posts to raise awareness on the human rights situation in Singapore, especially on public housing, public healthcare, and a good standard of living, as well as children’s rights in Singapore. She also actively organizes programs and events to raise awareness of the right to freedom of expression in Singapore.
For more than ten years, Han Hui Hui has received many intimidation and threats from the Singapore Government over her online expressions. The first time was in 2013, when she was a student and wrote a blog about education policies. At that time, she was threatened for defamation and force her to stop blogging. https://sg.news.yahoo.com/blogger-han-hui-hui-challenges-council-of-private-education-to-sue-her-093853015.html
In 2014, Han Hui Hui was charged in court and the trial lasted two years whereby she had to fund raise a total of $4,000 to pay off the $3,100 fine and the $450 fine each, for the other two co-accused whom she does not know who they are, until she met them in court. https://www.amnesty.org.au/singapore-peaceful-protesters-han-hui-hui/
In 2017, the AGC continued to stalk Han Hui Hui’s social media accounts, and then sent her letters to threaten her family members into making her stop posting online with a SGD$600,000.00 fine and 18 years jail. https://www.asiasentinel.com/p/singapore-courts-scandalized-again
On 25 November 2022, Singapore Attorney General summoned Han Hui Hui to court for cross-examination on 12 December 2022. Ms. Han Hui Hui was one month postpartum, so the cross-examination was postponed to 25 January 2023 and 22 February 2023 for six hours from 9 am to 12 pm on both dates.
On 21 February 2023, her TikTok account www.tiktok.com/@hanhuihui was being banned from posting after systematic reports made by the government Internet Brigade. The Singapore Attorney General required Han Hui Hui to pay SGD$22,504.90 on behalf of five Singaporeans whom she did not know and has never met.
Although on 22 February 2023, Han Hui Hui gave the full SGD$ 5503.00 raised from general Singaporeans to the Singapore Attorney General, however, the Attorney General still demanded her to raise more money on behalf of five other Singaporeans, which none of them was summoned to court, a balance of SGD$3750.00 per each of these five persons. This is happened after the Attorney General gave a label to Han Hui Hui as “The Leader of The Unvaccinated” in Singapore.
On 23 February 2023, Han Hui Hui was threatened with another contempt of court charge. The first contempt of court charge was in 2017 when Han Hui Hui was threatened with 18 years jail term and an SGD$600,000.00 fine.
Recently on 1 March 2023, Han Hui Hui received a letter from Singapore Government to take down social media post on her Facebook page, Instagram page, and Youtube channel. This letter refers to a previous letter dated 23 February 2022 demanding the removal of her social media posts, on which she had removed her video and accompanying posts on 1 December 2022.
The United Nations, through its Human Rights Commission, has attempted to issue a resolution, to recognize our rights when using the internet as well as our rights when we do not use the internet, including, among other things, our rights to have an opinion, including our rights to politics, our rights to have different opinions, and our rights to express ourself.
Through a resolution issued in 2012 and later General Comments 34 number 34 in 2016, Human Rights Council explains that on paragraph 1 of article 19 of the ICCPR requires protection of the right to hold opinions without interference. And on article 19 (2) of the ICCPR stipulates that the right to freedom of expression applies regardless of frontiers and through any media of one’s choice. General Comment No. 34 further explains that article 19 (2) includes internet-based modes of communication.
On this matter, our rights when using the Internet are the same as when we do not use the internet. That is, it must be protected, especially in relation to freedom of opinion and expression.
We are really concern with situation in Singapore recently, especially regarding online situation where a lot of defamation cases and threats that targeted to bloggers, youtube content creators, independent journalists, and human rights activists, including the case of Han Hui Hui. This case is one of the violation of digital rights, where legitimate online expressions were repressed using judicial harrashment and digital repressions.
Threatening and demanding removal of social media posts that based on facts and contains legitimate expressions was unlawful based on Article 19 of the ICCPR (International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights) which sets forth the right to freedom of expression. This right provides the right to seek and receive information of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, and through any media, including in Internet.
The United Nations Human Rights Council in its General Comment 34 also has emphasised that:
“when a State party imposes restrictions on the exercise of freedom of expression, these may not put in jeopardy the right itself…the relation between right and restriction and between norm and exception must not be reversed.” (Human Rights Committee, General Comment No. 34, note 4, para 21.)
Although freedom of expression is non-degorable rights and can be limited by restrictions, but any restriction must conform to the strict tests of necessity and proportionality.
Therefore, Southeast Asia Freedom of Expression Network (SAFEnet), a regional digital rights organization in Southeast Asia, strongly urged the Singapore government to:
1) Stop further demanding Han Hui Hui to remove her critical posts. We believe those further actions against her freedom of expression and her rights as a Singaporean citizen to voice her opinions toward better governance in Singapore.
2) Stop threatening, labeling, and judicial harassment of Han Hui Hui, as we also received information of political persecution against her family while attempting to charge and bring her to court.
3) Provide her with independent legal representatives, ensure the due process of law, and apply international human rights norms and standards.
4) Ensure that human rights defenders are able to carry out their legitimate work in a safe and enabling environment, including exercising their rights to freedom of opinion and expression, without fear of threats or acts of any possible persecution and harassment.
We also call for solidarity of the international community to monitor and advocate Han Hui Hui’s case and other Singaporean human rights defenders’ activities against violations of digital human rights and digital authoritarianism in Singapore.
Denpasar, Bali, 5 March 2023
Southeast Asia Freedom of Expression Network (SAFEnet)