Jailed six months for inciting violence online

Chia bore a 10-year grudge against NEA officers over a fine, and set up a Facebook page targeting them.
Chia bore a 10-year grudge against NEA officers over a fine, and set up a Facebook page targeting them.ST PHOTO: WONG KWAI CHOW

On Facebook page, he called for deaths of NEA and police officers

A judge who jailed a man yesterday for posting online comments that contained an incitement to violence also took the chance to remind the public to be careful of what they post online.

"The line between merely venting one's frustration and in doing so, leading to the incitement of violence can be a fine one,'' said District Judge Crystal Ong.

Chia Choon Kiat, she said, crossed that line and she found it "especially aggravating'' that he had set up a Facebook page to target National Environment Agency (NEA) officers.

A five-minute video of an "extremely brutal and gory'' pig killing Chia, 41, posted was shown in court when he admitted to three of eight charges. He wrote: "Let's do this to the NEA Cigarette Butt Officers.''

Judge Ong said that this, taken with his other comments, painted a picture of a man who had a festering hatred for NEA officers.

"The sentence imposed must be of sufficient severity, so as to deter other would-be offenders from doing something like this just because they hold a grudge against someone, or a particular class of persons,'' she said.

Chia, who used the moniker Rambo Power, was the account holder and administrator of a Facebook page titled Cigarette Butt Warriors. He set up the page last December to launch an online hate campaign against NEA officers, over a fine he got 10 years back for throwing a cigarette in a drain.

Besides the two posts targeting NEA officers on Jan 24 and Jan 29, Chia made a post on Feb 6, consisting of a link to a Yahoo news article titled We Cannot Forgive The Way My Son Was Treated: Benjamin Lim's Father In Open Letter.

Benjamin, 14, fell to his death shortly after he was released from police custody for allegedly molesting a girl.

Chia, an Internet marketeer, wrote: "When people buay lun already.... will need to take matters into our own hands. Please reveal the identity of the 5 plain clothes officers and we go handle them ourselves. Kill them.''

The phrase "buay lun'' is Hokkien for "cannot tolerate''.

All Singapore Stuff, a Facebook page of user-generated news, picked up Chia's post and noted that a "raging netizen'' was "encouraging violence against the police'', calling for action to be taken against him.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Sanjiv Vaswani argued that Chia knew full well what he was doing and did not suffer from any mental abnormality.

Chia's lawyer Alfred Dodwell said in mitigation that his client did not intend to actually cause harm to any group of individuals but to merely express his unhappiness about certain items in the news.

Chia has realised the severity of his comments and "switched off'' from all these social media platforms; reformed himself and looks forward to rebuilding his life after his time in jail, said Mr Dodwell.

Chia, who was given six months' jail, could have been jailed for up to five years and/or fined per charge.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 21, 2016, with the headline 'Jailed six months for inciting violence online'. Print Edition | Subscribe