Remark about throwing egg at minister a joke, says 20-year-old

Full-time national serviceman Edmund Zhong is assisting with investigations for the offence of communicating an electronic record to incite violence under Section 267C of the Penal Code. He said he posted the comment on Facebook saying he wanted to t
Full-time national serviceman Edmund Zhong is assisting with investigations for the offence of communicating an electronic record to incite violence under Section 267C of the Penal Code. PHOTO: COURTESY OF EDMUND ZHONG

He says he had no ill intentions or plans to carry out act against Shanmugam in posting the Facebook comment

The man who posted a comment on Facebook saying he wanted to throw an egg at Law and Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam said the remark was meant as a joke.

Mr Edmund Zhong, 20, a full-time national serviceman in the army, said yesterday that he had no ill intentions and did not have any plans to carry out the act.

"I posted it just as a joke, based on the news on the Australian senator," he said, referring to Australian Senator Fraser Anning.

Mr Anning, who stirred controversy in blaming the Christchurch shootings on Muslims, was hit with an egg on the back of his head by a 17-year-boy at a Melbourne event on March 16.

Mr Zhong commented on a Channel NewsAsia Facebook post on Mr Anning, saying: "I wanna do that to K. Shanmugam. I swear."

The police on Monday said a report was lodged against Mr Zhong for the comment. He and a 47-year-old man are currently assisting with investigations for the offence of communicating an electronic record to incite violence under Section 267C of the Penal Code.

The older man had responded to Mr Zhong's comment with information on the minister's upcoming Meet-the-People Session.

Anyone convicted of the offence can be jailed for up to five years or fined, or given both punishments.

Said Mr Zhong yesterday: "I just commented to draw a link to our local context, and then another guy just added fuel to the fire. I don't even know the guy at all."

ON INTENTION TO INCITE VIOLENCE

The violence is not just in persuading or suggesting. It must go further. It must at least instigate, spur or stimulate vigorously an action. 

MR ASHWIN GANAPATHY, a lawyer at IRB Law, noting that in Mr Zhong's case, the authorities would have to prove that there was an intention to incite violence.

He said the police took his statement on Monday.

He said: "To be honest, I don't feel much regret. I feel it's a matter of freedom of speech, and that we have a right to voice such opinions."

The incident has raised questions about what constitutes inciting violence.

Mr Ashwin Ganapathy, a lawyer at IRB Law, said that in Mr Zhong's case, the authorities would have to prove that there was an intention to incite violence.

"The violence is not just in persuading or suggesting. It must go further. It must at least instigate, spur or stimulate vigorously an action."

He said a prime example would be hate or inflammatory speech.

"Saying that you want to egg Mr Shanmugam, without doing or saying anything more, is unlikely to fall within the ambit of the provision," he said.

Mr Rajan Supramaniam, a criminal lawyer and managing director of Hilborne Law, said that the action taken by the police sought to send a strong signal against irresponsible and extreme Facebook postings.

 
 

Explaining that this action will serve as a deterrent, he said: "The comment was directed at a minister, who is a public servant. If social media becomes an entirely unregulated space, other ministers will also become targets."

If Mr Zhong had actually gone on to throw an egg at the minister, he would have also been charged with using criminal force or causing hurt, said Mr Ashwin.

"Whoever intentionally uses force on another person, without the person's consent, commits an offence of criminal force," he said.

And in terms of liability, it does not matter whether a slight or severe degree of force is used. These considerations can, however, be taken into account during sentencing, he said.

Mr Rajan said that the second man was likely also investigated in order to establish whether there is a connection between the two men, despite his not having posted the initial comment.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 27, 2019, with the headline 'Remark about throwing egg at minister a joke, says 20-year-old'. Print Edition | Subscribe