SINGAPORE - A couple knelt in the middle of Bendemeer Road holding a piece of paper during lunchtime on Aug 24, claiming to be cheated by an agent, and refused to move until the police arrived.
On Wednesday (Sept 9), the duo from China were each sentenced to five weeks' jail.
Mechanic Bao Weilong, 29, and his wife, Yang Xuemei, 28, a sales assistant, admitted to the life-endangering rash act along the road outside Ministry of Manpower (MOM) Services Centre at about 12.30pm on Aug 24.
They also pleaded guilty to criminal trespass at the MOM building earlier by unlawfully remaining in the foyer with intent to cause annoyance to officers from the ministry. They had knelt down on the ground and held a sheet of paper alleging that they had been cheated by an agent.
Videos and pictures taken by drivers and passers-by of the couple were uploaded onto social media.
Deputy Public Prosecutor Kumaresan Gohulabalan told the court the couple went to the MOM Services Centre at about 9am that day to find out if Yang could get a refund of the $6,000 fees she had paid to her agent in China before coming to Singapore to work.
When a customer service officer informed them that the ministry could not help her to get the refund, the couple proceeded to the foyer and knelt. They held a piece of paper written in Chinese stating that Yang had been cheated by her agent in China and requested help from the relevant departments of MOM to help get a refund of the fees.
Subsequently, three MOM staff ushered them to an interview room.
As a settlement could not be reached, the couple then proceeded to the pavement near the bus stop outside the MOM Services Centre and knelt again with the same piece of paper. They were seen to be crying.
Security staff persuaded them to return to the interview room again. There, another round of discussion was held, including talking to Yang's local agent, who was asked to go the MOM centre.
When the couple heard that only half the amount of fees could be refunded, Bao told his wife not to waste their time but to "carry out Plan B". They left and knelt down on Bendemeer Road in the midst of oncoming traffic.
As they were posing great risks to themselves and motorists, MOM security officers tried to persuade them to move away from the road but they refused to budge. Security officers had to divert traffic. Subsequently, the couple were pulled off the road and taken back to the MOM Services Centre.
They could have been jailed for up to six months and/or fined up to $2,500 for the rash act; and for criminal trespass, the maximum penalty is three months' jail and a $1,500 fine.
MOM said in a statement that it takes a serious view of foreigners who breach Singapore laws, and will revoke the work passes of those charged, convicted and jailed, and permanently bar them from working here.