Man refuses a security check at Changi Airport, rants on Facebook, but gets a reality check instead

In a Facebook post that starts off with the sentence, “Know your rights”, user PJ Wong recalled an encounter upon landing at Changi Airport on Thursday (15 Oct) when he was singled out by a customs officer who wanted to scan his belongings.

This afternoon at 3.20pm , after collecting my luggage at Changi , I was asked by Officer Eugene Ng , an Immigration & Custom Authority personnel to scan my belongings . I was curious and jokingly asked him what he saw in my outlook that made him pick me instead of dozens of people also leaving the airport with their belongings.

The user then goes on to question the officer’s authority is calling him out. PJ Wong then to refused the officer’s demand of going into the search room to question him further.

I was angry because he was holding me without cause . I asked him again for the purpose of taking down my details ; instead of answering me , he ordered me to follow him to the search room . Naturally , I refused . I asked him what he was planning to search and why I was being detained.

In what sounds like another flexing of “I know my rights” move, PJ Wong then whips his phone out and starts to record the incident, in spite of the officer warning him not to film in the restricted area.

At this point , afraid I would be dragged away against my will , I started taking video of the events that would follow . He leaped forward and tried to snatch my phone but I managed to dodge and reminded him of my rights to take images of public places including airports and that even the police have no rights to take away my phone unless they have a warrant . This officer then told me the area is restricted and I cannot take videos of him . On the contrary , the luggage belt / custom area was a public area , tens of dozens of people were moving around us .

Eventually the officer returns with a superior who releases PJ Wong, in what he sees as a victory move.

Finally his superior returned and guess what ? ….. his superior let me go within 10 seconds . With this , the truth is obvious . I did nothing wrong (except to ask a question) and officer Eugene Ng was just being an ass !

PJ Wong then goes on to insult the immigration officer.

What kind of people are we hiring these days as public servants to serve us ? This is clearly an abuse of power and an infringement of my rights . This officer had intimidated me and if I had followed him to the search room I could not imagine what would happen next . I was so afraid for my safety and what this officer and / or his other colleagues would have done to me if I had been dragged to the search room .

Apart of thinking that it the duty of a “public servant to serve him (us)”, PJ Wong also adds in pompous information about his self-importance.

For this and many other similar reasons , I had left my country to live overseas . There are simply too many similar encounters every time I return ..

Note: I have various businesses in Singapore that pay taxes ; I am an original Singaporean who also contributed to nation building by being in uniform for 6 years . Maybe I should be treated slightly better than this when I return to my home . I wish officer Eugene Ng a successful career checking luggages at Changi .

The Facebook post has since been shared over 5,000 times. See the full post here:

Netizens generally unimpressed

While some supported his move, many questioned if PJ Wong was just throwing the words “know your rights” around without realising the gravity of the situation.

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Refusing security check at the airport

PJ Wong’s refusal to comply to a security check raises more questions on logic and the issue of rights. It is known that even when travelling on the MRT, that passengers can be subjected to random checks at the security posts of each station, what more the airport?

According to the Singapore Customs Act, when  an immigration officers wants to search you at Changi Airport, they are allowed to do so, according to law.

Search of persons arriving in Singapore

  1. —(1)  Subject to this section, any person landing, or being about to land, or having recently landed, from any vessel or aircraft, or leaving any vessel or aircraft in the territorial waters of Singapore, whether for the purpose of landing or otherwise, or entering or having recently entered Singapore by road or rail shall, on demand by any proper officer of customs —

(a) permit his person, goods and baggage to be searched by the officer; or

(b) together with the goods and baggage accompany the officer to a customs office or customs station or police station and there permit his person, goods and baggage to be searched by an officer of customs.

And when PJ Wong refused to hand over the phone on which he was filming the incident with? He could have been arrested.

According to the Public Order Act:

Seizure of films of law enforcement activities

38.

—(1)  Any police officer of or above the rank of sergeant, or any CPIB officer, narcotics officer, intelligence officer or immigration officer, if satisfied upon information and after such further inquiry as he thinks necessary, that any person —

(a)is making, has made or is about to make;

(b)is exhibiting or communicating or is about to exhibit or communicate; or

(c) has in his possession,

any film or picture containing a record of any law enforcement activities, and he reasonably believes that the film or picture, if exhibited or communicated (whether to the public or any section thereof or otherwise) —

(i)prejudices the effective conduct of an ongoing law enforcement operation or investigation, or any intelligence operation; or

(ii)endangers or will endanger the safety of any law enforcement officer in an ongoing law enforcement operation or investigation, or any intelligence operation,

he may exercise any of the powers specified in subsection (2).

(2)  A police officer of or above the rank of sergeant, a CPIB officer, a narcotics officer, an intelligence officer or an immigration officer may —

(a) direct the person reasonably believed to be making, exhibiting or communicating a film or picture or about to do so to immediately cease making, exhibiting or communicating the film, and either to immediately delete, erase or otherwise destroy the film or picture or to surrender the film or picture to the police officer, CPIB officer, narcotics officer, intelligence officer or immigration officer, as the case may be;

(bwithout warrant, search any person whom he has reason to believe is in possession of a film or picture referred to in subsection (1);

(c) without warrant, and with such assistance and by such force as is necessary, by night or by day, enter and search any place where he has reason to believe any film or picture referred to in subsection (1) is kept; or

(dwithout warrant, and with such assistance and by such force as is necessary, seize any film or picture referred to in subsection (1) and any copy thereof, and any equipment (including a handphone) used or about to be used in the making, exhibition or communication of the film or picture, and take into custody any person reasonably believed to be in possession thereof.

(3)  Any film, picture and any equipment (including a handphone) used in the making, exhibition or communication of the film or picture may be forfeited and shall be destroyed or otherwise disposed of in such manner as the Commissioner may direct.

(4)  Where a person to whom a direction under subsection (2)(a) is given fails to comply with the direction, he shall be guilty of an offence and shall be liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding $20,000 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 12 months or to both.

That essentially means PJ Wong could have gotten into serious trouble if it was not for the officers allowing him to just leave. In other words: know your rights and put that bag in the scanner.

But some just do not get it

On Friday (16 October) PJ Wong posted on update comment onto his initial post, sharing that he “never had expected an outpouring support for his stand” and that he feels “honoured”.

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On the other hand, someone set up a Facebook support page for Officer Eugene Ng. Over 500 people have liked the page since it was set up on Thursday.

Oh well.

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