Should Han Hui Hui be subjected to cyber-bullying just because we disagree with her?
You and I know the answer.
We know that Han Hui Hui is not exactly the most popular person online this week.
Han has ruffled some feathers, given how her #ReturnOurCPF protesters had behaved in the park, and her now infamous video of her confrontation with NParks’ Director of Parks.
The intrepid 22-year-old at the centre of last Saturday’s Hong Lim Park fracas has had quite a number of detractors, with blogger mrbrown calling Han and Roy Ngerng “a bunch of insensitive wankers”, amidst other remarks.
Now there is even a petition asking the Singapore government to revoke her citizenship.
Started by a Terry Lim, the petition says that “Singapore does not need a non-contributing citizen who spreads hate and negativity in the country.” The petition has since gained nearly 4,400 supporters.
Petition signers have compared Han to extremist group ISIS, while some say that Han is a “rabble-rouser”, and someone who is “so full of herself”.
But the petition was also laden with a degree of xenophobia.
“What if all FT become citizenship (sic) and act out like her .. singapore (sic) will be in a big mess,” says an Andrew Yang.
One TC Tan writes: “HHH, please go back to your Shangri-La birthplace and don’t come back to Singapore ever again… You are one extra free loader that we neither want nor need. We don’t even want you to be in our jail as my taxes go to feeding and housing you. Please go.”
Jaclyn Tay writes: “Enough is enough… being silent doesn’t mean we accept whatever HHH and Roy N are doing or saying and there’s always a limit to each tolerance.”
Others questioned Han’s reasons for taking up her citizenship. “Revoke her citizenship! If I need someone to voice for me, I need someone civilized and well-mannered. Not like this,” a Catherine Leck wrote.
It’s perhaps ironic, given Han’s new citizen status, that the #ReturnOurCPF has also had its anti-foreign talent moments.
Strong words indeed.
But let’s take a step back before we overreact.
1. Tolerance in a diverse Singapore
Many of us disagree with Han’s views. For Han, almost everything about the Singapore government and its governance is wrong.
But we should have the good sense to debate her and question her assertions. In a Singapore that is becoming increasingly diverse, we need to accept that others may hold a different view to ours. We need the tolerance and forbearance on all sides to always respect the right of others to differ.
In his National Day Rally speech two years ago, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong urged Singaporeans to be more “big-hearted”.
Han may not be a Singaporean by birth, but she has become a Singaporean by choice.
She is one of us.
Attacking a fellow Singaporean just because her views are different from ours is not the Singaporean way. It is not what an open and inclusive society Singapore strives to be.
As PM Lee said, we “may be a small island, we cannot be small-minded”.
2. Be constructive in our criticisms and not attack others personally.
Han, Roy Ngerng and the protesters should not have disrupted a charity event where special needs children, disabled children and the elderly were present.
Ngerng, of course, had apologised for the stress that he caused to the children and admitted that he had made some mistakes regarding the whole incident. He had also written to YMCA to request for an opportunity to meet with the children.
Han on the other hand continued to accuse the government, the ruling party and even the YMCA for causing her to react the way she did.
So we should criticise Han’s actions. She should stop making excuses for herself and reflect about her actions last Saturday.
But we should not demolish her personally and start all these vicious name-calling online.
In March this year, Law and Foreign Affairs Minister K Shanmugam introduced anti-harassment laws, where he described cases of cyber bullying (harassment of a doctor, calling a baby an “alien”), calling such behaviours “really quite sickening”.
The recently set-up page “Not in My Name” appears to be formed specially to target and cyber-bully Han and Ngerng. Examples of such cyber-bullying acts included insulting Han’s sexuality, threatening Han’s safety, and asking her to XXXX off from Singapore.
3. Citizenship is not a token to be taken away at the whim and fancy of the state
Citizenship, while certainly a prestigious status, is not some sort of token that the Government can randomly take away.
Granted, what she did is foolish and perhaps not socially-acceptable. But Han, as far as we know, did not commit a crime — yet. And even if she did, do you want a Government that could just revoke your citizenship because you are a criminal?
The petition is worrying because it implores the state to boot off someone just because the general public (or at least, 4,000 people) are pissed off with the actions of one person. This act is extreme and should be rejected by all Singaporeans.
Remember this poem attributed by pastor Martin Niemöller (1892–1984) at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum?
First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.
We should speak out against such extreme acts.
Removing Han’s citizenship would set a precedent, and the next time someone else pisses more than 4,000 people off, they might get their citizenship revoked too.
And the next time, it might be your turn.
Or your children will be next.
Top photo by Ng Yi Shu.