Singaporean activist Jolovan Wham chose to break the law, and Singapore had to enforce it, said Singapore's ambassador to the United States, Ashok Kumar Mirpuri.
Mirpuri: Wham could have exercised his right to political expression in other ways
In a letter that was published by the New York Times (NYT) on Dec. 8, Mirpuri said instead of staging a protest in a prohibited area, and another without a permit, Wham "could have exercised his right to political expression at the Speakers' Corner... or by publishing his views".
He could have also applied for a permit, but he had not, Mirpuri said.
"If he chooses to break the law, then we must enforce the law," he added.
The letter was written in response to a NYT article that reported on Wham's one-man illegal protests and the subsequent charges he faced.
The headline read: "It was just him and his smiley face. He's charged with illegal assembly."
Consequences would have been different if it wasn't just Wham protesting by himself
In his letter, Mirpuri further expanded on the measures the government has taken to manage protests in "densely populated Singapore".
By allowing public protests to be held only at Speakers' Corner or with a permit, authorities are able to assess the "public-order risks", he said.
Singapore has the sovereign right to impose its own protest rules
Mirpuri also asserted Singapore's sovereign rights to conduct its own domestic affairs:
"We balance the right to protest against the rights of others not to be inconvenienced by such protests.
And we make no apologies for holding to our own values."
He ended his letter by saying Singapore does not try to impose its values on other countries, and so "others should likewise respect [its] sovereign right".
"In any case, we do not think 'free speech' as it is now playing out in the United States commends itself to us," he said.
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Top image adapted via Tallberg Foundation/YouTube & Jolovan Wham/Twitter