Five Biggest Hong Lim Park Protests

Singaporeans are no longer keeping quiet when it comes to issues that matter to them, shedding their image of being apathetic and obedient. In the past, The Speaker’s Corner was treated like a joke and that the only ones who’d ‘listen’ were… well, no one. In recent years, people have raised many concerns and staged protests at Hong Lim Park to voice their grievances, and now these protests are shaping the country. Here’s why they matter:

1. The White Paper Protests

What Went Down: Remember The White Paper? The government speculated that the Singapore population could range from 6.5-6.9 million, and that most of the baby boomers wouldn’t be working, so they y’know, decided to bring in more foreigners to sustain economic growth. Not cool. Singapore infrastructure can’t support this many people, and the current policies that ‘encourage’ baby making don’t take the high cost of living and the lack of childcare support into consideration. We’re with the 4,000 people at Hong Lim Park on this one.

Leave it to Mr. Brown to make us laugh, even if it’s a serious issue.

Why It’s Important: This idea was proposed and passed in government, and the problems that we face still haven’t changed. With rising expenses and paychecks remaining the same, it’s hard to feel like this blanket solution is actually a good idea. We need to figure out how we can live sustainably and how our infrastructure is going to support everyone. Given the recent MRT breakdowns, the answer is seems to be no.

2. Free My Internet

freeinternetWhat Went Down: Last year, the Media Development Authority required that Singapore websites with more than 50,000 unique views a month to secure a license, which also includes a “performance bond” of $50,000. Any “objectionable content” should also be removed within 24 hours if the government deems it necessary. Well, then, they don’t exactly understand how the internet works—it’s supposed to be a free space for people to connect and express themselves. More than 100 websites blacked themselves out on 6th June 2013, and the protest itself took place on 8th June.

Why It’s Important: We live in an country where lots of books (see #3) and films get censored, repeatedly. And now there’s a regulation on the safe space that is home to bloggers, comic artists, and and creative people? No way! We’ve always danced around the notion of freedom of speech with the authorities, and this game of what we can say—or not say is brought to light again. The internet is not a safe space, and we all have to tread carefully.

3. Pink Dot SG VS White Dot

pinkdotWhat Went Down:The yearly Pink Dot event celebrates diversity, love, and LGBT rights—and also happens to be a chance for the LGBTQ community to bling up and wear sibeh zhng outfitsMore than 26,000 people attended this event in June this year, making it—literally—the largest Pink Dot event since its inception in 2009.

This event was ‘hijacked’—an Islamic educator by the name of Noor Deros created the incredibly imaginative hashtag #WearWhite to oppose, and, surprise surprise, instructed the Muslim community to wear white, and to rally against homosexuality. Because our religious leaders are oh so hip with social media, Pastor Lawrence Khong of the Faith Community Baptist Church also caught on to this trend, and organized a “family worship” that also coincided with the event.

Why It’s Important: LGBTQ discrimination is real, and the penal code that criminalizes gay sex—here’s looking at you, 377A—is still in effect. Many LGBTQ people are afraid to come out of the closet as they fear being disowned and shunned by their family and close friends. These haters have also accused LGBTQ people of promoting a homosexual “lifestyle,” and that they are not “pro-family”—both of which are myths as LGBTQ people are people like you and me.

4. #ReturnOurCPF Protest, 6th June 2014. 

cpfprotest1What Went Down: Roy Ngerng criticized the CPF fund on his blog. Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong took notice and decided to take legal action against him. His list of grievances include the lack of transparency, accountability, and that too much of our salary is deposited in our pension fund. Then, there’s the increase of the minimum sum, which means we need to have more money in our CPF if we would like to withdraw it.

Ngerng managed to gain a following, which turned into something like a movement. His protests were going well… until recent events occurred.

Why It’s Important: With expenses increasing, it’s hard trying to stay afloat, even if a so-called average salary of a graduate is $3,000. There’s food, transport, giving an “allowance” to your parents—and what, we actually have to get married and buy a flat now? All these “requirements” to live in Singapore make our head spin, and how we cope will change Singapore in time to come.

5. ‘Heckling’ Incident, 27 September 2014

What Went Down: Roy Ngerng, Han Hui Hui and his following took to Hong Lim Park once again to voice their concerns with CPF. This time, the protests didn’t go over so well—they were caught heckling special needs children from the YMCA, just as they were about to perform on stage. This incident overshadowed his cause and became a PR disaster. Although Ngerg has apologised and has tried to make amends with the special needs children from the YMCA, no one is buying it. Video footage of Han Hui Hui shrilly demanding police officers for their identification did not do the protestors any favours.

What It’s Important: We’re still learning how to protest, but having a cause doesn’t mean you stop being a decent human being. There’s no need to antagonize people who happen to be sharing the same space. There’s a need to learn how to behave, however, and propriety was sorely lacking that day. Now, no one knows what to make of Roy Ngerng and Han Hui Hui, and it looks like fewer people will pay attention to the #ReturnOurCPF protests. Ironically, Hong Lim Park has silenced them instead of giving them a voice.

The internet is a great place to rally people for a cause, but they only come to life when they take place at Hong Lim Park. Indeed, people care enough to bring these issues to the forefront, and many of these movements are gaining traction. It looks like this is the place that will catalyse change, and we’re on the lookout for what happens next.

With reference to The Straits TimesGlobal Voices, ScmpPopulation Sg, Yahoo Singapore
Images via Maniyo Kalyani, Pink Dot Singapore, Free My Internet, Inaugural Labour Day Protest, Roger Poh