Chronicles of Singapore Political Prisoners: Chen Mei He

Tan Mei Hua (陈美和), a member of Barisan Sosialis and a writer today, was arrested on 26 Oct 1966 and released on 3 July 1973.

Tan Mei Hua together with many others were arrested in October 1966 because they had protested against the United States daily bombing of Vietnam and the use of poisonous gas, Napalm on the population. Thousands of Vietnamese died or were injured and vegetation and crops were destroyed during the Vietnam War.

Elected Legislative Assemblyman Chia Thye Poh was also arrested in October 1966 and was imprisoned for 32 years without trial. According to Tan Mei Hua, Chia was subjected to severe torture and continuous interrogation for 96 hours in the cold room.

Torture, forced television confessions and ill treatment inside Central Police Station and Changi Prison as well as the forced closure of registered trade unions led Tan Mei Hua and many others to go on a hunger strike in 1967. Supporters and family members protested outside the prison gate. Violence broke out when police used force against more than 300 protesters. Many were subsequently charged in court.

In December 1970 several women prisoners commenced a hunger strike to protest against unreasonable and harsh prison conditions – inadequate food, absence of reading materials and forced labour. Tan Mei Hua joined the hunger strike for 135 days. The prisoners were force fed. The entire hunger strike lasted 146 days, the longest in Singapore’s prison history.

The prison authority relented after many of the prisoners were on the verge of death.

Thanks to the hunger strikers, political prisoners today are exempted from forced labour and are permitted reading materials and food.

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Function 8 and Community Action Network (CAN) are deeply troubled and saddened by the arrest of artist Seelan Palay outside Parliament House on Sunday, 1 Oct 2017. He has been released on police bail since yesterday and is subjected to severe restrictions including restrictions on travels.

Seelan Palay was merely practising his profession as an artist when he demonstrated how a free mind cannot be constrained by space such as Hong Lim Park. The video at illustrates his free spiritedness when he started his performance in the muddy park of Hong Lim and walked along South Bridge Road to his destinations at City Hall (now National Gallery) and Parliament House where he was arrested.

All along the way, there was no agitated crowd or violence. Artist Seelan Palay’s demeanour throughout his journey was that of a serious art practitioner. He did not indulge in words except to briefly explain his art and answer questions posed to him by police officers.

Article 14 of our Constitution guarantees freedom of speech, expression, assembly and association. We do not see any harm or damage that can be caused to Singapore by artist Seelan Palay’s performance. Indeed his artistic performance contributes to the making of Singapore as a city of art and culture. His performance definitely does not warrant his arrest.

Further, bystanders watching artist Seelan Palay’s performance and ultimate arrest were intimidated and harassed by police officers who demanded their personal identity card particulars. This is totally illegal and should cease immediately as Singapore is not at war or under a state of emergency.

We call upon the Singapore police to cease harassment and intimidation of activists and release artist Seelan Palay from all restrictions.

4 Oct 2017

Function 8 and Community Action Network

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Statement on Police Investigation into Anti-Death Penalty Supporters

4th September 2017

Function 8 condemns the police harassment of anti-death penalty activists who held a vigil outside Changi Prison on the night of 13 July 2017 for Prabagaran Srivijayan who was to be executed at dawn on 14 July 2017. Members of Prabagaran’s family were at the vigil, and anti-death penalty activists turned up to support the grieving family members.

Article 14 of the Constitution of the Republic of Singapore guarantees the right of citizens to freedom of speech, expression and assembly. The act of issuing and having the police
personally delivering letters which require the said activists to appear at police stations to assist in investigations, almost two months after the event, goes against the spirit of our Constitution and is a waste of Police resources.

We call upon the Minister for Home Affairs to rescind the action of the police, to cease the investigation, and to stop the harassment and intimidation of citizens participating in civil society activities.

Function 8 Ltd


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Call for Entries: Citizen Cinema


Function 8 is proud to announce the establishment of a new programme called Citizen Cinema, and call for entries as part of Freedom Film Festival Singapore. The programme will feature creative, critical and thought-provoking films on Singapore to be screened during the festival at The Projector on 12 November 2017.

Citizen Cinema aims to showcase and foster the production of films which highlight social, cultural, political and environmental issues in Singapore, and is open to entries from established filmmakers, first-time filmmakers, students, video bloggers, and citizen journalists.

A collection of selected films from the entries will be screened at the event, and 3 of the most notable films will be awarded $500 each.

Submission Guidelines

Entries of all lengths and genres will be accepted, including narrative films, documentaries, music videos, animated or experimental films. Films may be produced by individuals or groups. They may also be shot on any device, from Digital Camcorders to DSLRs to mobile phones. The films can be as short as 1 minute or as long as 45 mins, so long as the subject matter of the film remains relevant to issues in Singapore that you think need to be documented, discussed, and addressed.

There is no submission fee to Citizen Cinema and each applicant may submit multiple films. To be eligible, your film/s must have been completed after January 2015.

The closing date for entries is 30 September 2017 and successful entrants will be notified on 6 October 2017.

How to Submit

Submissions are only accepted via online transfer (eg. Google Drive, Vimeo, Links to download your film can be included in the online submission form. If you are submitting multiple films, each individual entry will require a separate form. The completed form/s should then be emailed to

Download the entry form here.

We look forward to all your amazing films!

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MRT protest






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Statement (6 June 2017)

MRT protest
In 1987, many of the detainees of Operation Spectrum suffered assaults, cold-room interrogations, severe sleep deprivation and solitary confinement for a fabricated conspiracy. Perpetrators of that violence included employees of the State. These are detailed in a recent Function 8 publication, 1987 Singapore’s Marxist Conspiracy 30 Years On.

We deeply regret that citizens who were reading this book and chose to express their views publicly against the abuses of Operation Spectrum are to be subjected to police investigation.

It is deplorable that there are people who try to muzzle those who want the truth—calling for justice for those who suffered detention without trial. All the more lamentable that this is happening in Singapore, a country that takes pride in being a First World nation. 

We call on the government to investigate instead the abuses suffered by the former detainees and make appropriate restitution.

Function 8

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Debunking a 30-year-old Conspiracy

untracing 3

30 years on, details of the Internal Security arrests codenamed Operation Spectrum have only just come to light, first in Teo Soh Lung’s book, Beyond the Blue Gate, and more recently, in Jason Soo’s film, 1987: Untracing the Conspiracy. The documentary can be viewed on Youtube.

On the 30th anniversary of this event which had a chilling effect on Singapore’s civil society, we would like to invite you to join us in an endeavor for restorative justice and reconciliation.

Date: 21 May 2017
Venue: The Projector
Time: 2 – 6 pm

2.00 – 3.00 pm
Screening of 1987: Untracing the Conspiracy(tickets to be bought online from The Projector or at the box office)

3.15 – 4.30 pm
Conversation with survivors of Operation Spectrum *

4.30 – 5.00 pm
Book Launch – 1987: Singapore’s Marxist Conspiracy 30 Years On

5.00 — 6.00 pm
What have we learned? (Sharing by civil society organisations)

* If you have seen the film 1987: Untracing the Conspiracy, you are welcome to join the programme from 3.00pm onwards.

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