Poly lecturer admits to inciting violence online

Tang Koon Huat pleaded guilty to one charge of making an electronic record containing an incitement to violence.
Tang Koon Huat pleaded guilty to one charge of making an electronic record containing an incitement to violence.ST PHOTO: WONG KWAI CHOW

SINGAPORE - Unhappy that Alan Benjamin Maybury, a Briton, was only given a fine for punching a teen driver in a road rage incident, a Singapore Polytechnic lecturer went online and called for a vigilante group to be formed to "beat up drunk" Caucasians "in the drinking joints".

Tang Koon Huat, 63, who has since retired, pleaded guilty on Tuesday (April 11) to one of two charges of making an electronic record containing an incitement to violence on Jan 14 last year (2016). A second similar charge will be taken into consideration.

Sometime in 2014, using a Facebook account called "emettalhaqq" with the name Emmett Haqq, Tang created a Facebook page titled "Act for Singapore" (AFS).

He would use the page to post articles he deemed to be of interest.

Assistant Public Prosecutor (APP) Thiagesh Sukumaran said on Jan 14 last year, Tang wrote a post on the AFS Facebook page using racially offensive terms to draw attention to Maybury's court appearance earlier that day.

It was in that post that he called for the vigilante group to be formed. He wrote: "It's about time to form a Singaporean vigilate group to go to beat up troublesome" Caucasians in the drinking joints. "Teach these bumps (sic) a lesson," he added.

Maybury, 35, had hit 19-year-old polytechnic student Lum Kwok Weng after an accident on Nov 30, 2014 at around 1.30am.

Mr Lum had lost control of his car as he navigated a bend along South Buona Vista Road, resulting in a head-on collision with a taxi. Maybury, a former consultant, was in the taxi with his wife on their way home.

Maybury got out of the taxi and shouted an expletive at Mr Lum before punching him in the face.

He was given the maximum $5,000 fine due to the exceptional circumstances of the case. Mr Lum paid a composition fine for inconsiderate driving.

But the fact that Maybury received a fine angered Tang.

APP Thiagesh said through investigation, Tang was identified to be the true face behind Emett Haqq and was arrested on April 15.

During investigation, he admitted he had created the AFS page because of his negative perceptions about the influx of foreigners and the declining population of "native Singaporeans".

Tang's lawyer Alfred Dodwell asked for time to prepare a submissionon sentencing.

He said this case, like those of Gary Yue and Chia Choon Kiat, would have important and profound effect on freedom of speech and postings on social media. He will be asking for a non-custodial sentence for his client.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Sanjiv Vaswani told the court the prosecution is asking for three months' jail to be imposed, being the starting point for such offences.

District Judge Mathew Joseph adjourned the matter to May 16 for mitigation and sentencing.

Chia, a 41-year-old Internet marketeer, was jailed six months last October for posting online comments that contained an incitement to violence.

He pleaded guilty to three of eight charges, which included setting up a Facebook page titled Cigarette Butt Warriors to launch an online hate campaign against NEA officers.

Yeu, 41, was the first man to be convicted of the offence of incitement to violence. He was initially given a $6,000 fine but the High Court allowed the prosecution's appeal in 2012 and jailed him for two months.

He posted on sociopolitical site Temasek Review's wall on Aug 9, 2010 a link to a YouTube video depicting the assassination of former Egyptian president Anwar Sadat and the comment: "We should re-enact a live version of this on our grandstand during our national's (sic) parade!!!!!!"

The maximum penalty for the offence is five years' jail and a fine.