Singapore duo investigated for taking Greta-inspired climate photos

Swedish activist Greta Thunberg (at left), 20-year-old Singaporean man and 18-year-old Singaporean woman being investigated by police. Photos: Greta Thunberg/Twitter, @HanKirstenly/Instagram, @Jolovan.wham/Instagram
Swedish activist Greta Thunberg (at left), 20-year-old Singaporean man and 18-year-old Singaporean woman being investigated by police. Photos: Greta Thunberg/Twitter, @HanKirstenly/Instagram, @Jolovan.wham/Instagram

Youths around the world have joined Swedish activist Greta Thunberg in taking their demands for climate action online due to the virus outbreak. 

Unfortunately, two in Singapore may have found themselves on the wrong side of the law for publicly campaigning locally for the famed Fridays For Future movement. Police told reporters yesterday they are investigating a 20-year-old man and 18-year-old woman under the Public Order Act after photos of them posing in public with signs calling for climate action were posted online. 

“I was informed that some people interpreted this as a challenge to authority,” the man, known on Instagram as @Menhguin, wrote yesterday after the police statement was released to the press.

No charges have yet been filed against the pair. @Menhguin said it was important that those who risk to lose yet are unable to vote to express themselves.

@Fridaysforfuture in countless other countries comprises peaceful student demonstrations to express support for climate action. Students cannot vote, but their generation will be the most affected by climate change,” he said, adding that he had spent 10 hours at the police station. Singaporeans need to be at least 21 to vote.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

My stance is simple: Singapore is better than oil, meaning Singapore’s safety is worth more than oil money. You can also interpret it as “Singapore can move beyond oil”. In my caption, I cited the development of Jurong Island from the JTC website and a $100 billion climate change adaptation budget from the National Day Rally 2019 speech. As was made clear in my ten (10) hour police station visit, a “public assembly” refers to any individual assembling in a public area to demonstrate support for or opposition to the views or actions of any person, group of persons or any government or to publicise a cause or campaign. Practically everyone has done this. Yet the police don’t go around shopping malls on National Day asking people whether they have a permit to say “Singapore is good”. No, they go after threats. I was informed that some people interpreted this as a challenge to authority. @fridaysforfuture in countless other countries comprises peaceful student demonstrations to express support for climate action. Students cannot vote, but their generation will be the most affected by climate change. Looking after our own futures – you consider this a threat? I hope not. #fridaysforfuture #fridays4futuresg #climatejustice

A post shared by minh nhat nguyen (@menhguin) on

It is illegal to hold public demonstrations without a permit in Singapore, even if it is just a silent protest involving one person. And the only public place Singaporeans have been granted a permit to do so is the Speaker’s Corner in Hong Lim Park. 

For neither obtaining a permit nor demonstrating at the designated location, the duo face S$3,000 fines each if found guilty. 

Photos showed that the man standing in front of the Toa Payoh Community Club and a police station holding a sign that read “SG is better than oil @fridays4futuresg.”

The woman was seen near the office of American petrochemical company ExxonMobil in Harbourfront holding signs reading “Planet over profit,” “School strike 4 climate,” and “ExxonMobil kills kittens & puppies.”

The woman, who posts to Instagram as @Jminsrus, has made no comment on her account since the police released the statement but shared the @Menhguin’s post in a story.

According to the police, the incidents happened March 13 and 22, the same time Thunberg began calling on people around the world to go on a “digital strike” since protesting in the streets was no longer feasible due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. 

As part of the online strike, Thunberg called on people to publish photos of themselves holding signs with the hashtag #ClimateStrikeOnline, some of which she would then repost.

But instead of joining the online protest by using the same hashtag, the duo borrowed the campaign name to create separate Instagram and Twitter accounts called @Fridays4Futuresg and @F4Fsg, respectively, and calling on people to post similar photos with the hashtag #climatestrikesg. 

The Twitter account has been set to private while the Instagram account has gone dark. 

The man did not address why the duo had decided to create an offshoot of Thunberg’s campaign. 

Last month, Thunberg reportedly applied to trademark her name and “Fridays For Future” to stop people from impersonating her or capitalizing on the movement’s name.

 

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