Partygoers in S'pore fined over CNY celebration in office unit amid Covid-19

SINGAPORE - A group of 15 people gathered in an office unit near Marymount Road for a Chinese New Year celebration on Feb 25 this year, at a time when group gatherings were limited to eight people as part of Covid-19 measures.

They partied for more than four hours, drinking alcohol, singing karaoke and playing games, until a security officer reported the incident to the police.

Some members of the group were dealt with in the State Courts on Thursday (Nov 25), with party organiser Ong Hui Siong, a 39-year-old Singaporean, fined $12,000 for illegally selling alcohol and providing public entertainment, and flouting Covid-19 laws. Another two charges were taken into consideration. 

Singaporean Joseph Lim Si Swee, 33, and Malaysian Lim Weitzien, 27, were fined $6,000 each for selling liquor and providing public entertainment without a licence.

Four attendees, Singaporeans Low Xiang Hua, 31, Chua Li Jin, 32, and Ethan Tan, 31, and Chinese national Li Jia, 26, were fined $3,000 each for flouting Covid-19 regulations.

Also charged were Singaporeans Tey Zhi Yuan, 30, and Harold Tan Wei Jie, 35, as well as Chinese nationals Xiao Jing, 29, He Liuqiong, 30, Lin Xiaofeng, 34, Sun Minqian, 33, Shao Ruirui, 37, and Chen Yuanyuan, 28.

Court documents said they are being dealt with separately.

The group had gathered when social gatherings were limited to eight persons. This was when Singapore had relaxed its safe distancing restrictions from Dec 28, 2020.

Deputy Public Prosecutors Emily Koh and Tessa Tan told the court that Ong had leased the office unit for 12 months from October 2020 for his company, Astrotech Industries.

As his business was hit by the pandemic, he accepted offers to operate the office as a gathering place for his friends, who paid him for providing the venue as well as alcohol and entertainment.

"The gatherings between friends became more frequent and Hui Siong started receiving other guests unknown to him," said the prosecution.

"Nevertheless, he allowed the guests to enter the premises while continuing to provide alcohol and entertainment to them."

On Feb 24, guests turned up around 9pm. When the police arrived at 2am on Feb 25, they found 15 people in the premises, many of whom occupied a long sofa, singing and playing games.

Alcoholic beverages, cups and dice were lined up on the table in front of the sofa. Singing was facilitated by a karaoke machine, an overhead projector and speakers that blasted loud music.

None of them wore a mask.

Ong was helped by his friends Lim Weitzien and Joseph Lim, who have experience in the nightlife scene.

DPP Koh said Ong received around $1,000 per month from his guests, and he paid his two friends $50 to $200 a night for helping to serve the guests.

They did not have a valid licence to sell liquor at the premises, said DPP Koh, who urged the judge to fine each of the guests $3,000 and Ong $12,000 as a deterrent.

"The group had met for a frivolous and completely unnecessary purpose... in blatant disregard of the social distancing measures that the rest of society has taken pains to comply with," she said.

For flouting Covid-19 regulations, offenders can be jailed for up to six months and fined up to $10,000.

Those who illegally provide public entertainment and liquor can be fined up to $20,000 for each offence.