Prof Tey Tsun Hang now in jail

We are sad to inform that Prof. Tey Tsun Hang is now incarcerated in Singapore’s Changi Prison, after being sentenced to five months by the Subordinate Court.

Details about the trial, many a times smack of a circus with the apparent objective of a Trial by Media, can be found at the Trial of Tsun Hang blog.

We wish all the best to Prof Tey and his family.


Legal Consensus: Supreme Executive, Supine Jurisprudence, Suppliant Profession of Singapore

Publications of CCPL, Faculty of Law, University of Hong Kong

Author: Assoc. Prof. TEY Tsun Hang

Singapore’s schizophrenic jurisprudence is fascinating to many legal scholars. Its genius has been to present Singapore as one of the most sophisticated and open societies with its common law, all the while being careful to help keep its highly-controlled political and social system largely intact.

Tey puts forward a brilliant examination of a jurisprudence that has been assembled over decades. It builds on meticulously mined case-law, to illuminate issues ranging from the use of civil defamation proceedings to tackle political dissent, the use of death penalty and criminal due process, to arrive at some insights into the core political values enforced by the Singapore judiciary.  It is a careful study of what goes into its decision-making and reasoning process. It throws a great deal of light on how the Singapore judiciary has bought into – wholesale – the political emphasis on the supreme importance of government in human affairs, and on the overriding priority of stability and status quo – a worldview that emphasises respect for hierarchical relationships, that privileges the collective over the individual, and regards voices different from the dominant political discourse as dangerous to Singapore’s social and political order.

With impressive zeal, Tey works through a massive amount of jurisprudence to expose its Legalistic thinking. But it also paints a disturbing picture, of a worldview that challenges the assumptions about the primacy of individual rights and the essential principles of constitutional reasoning that lie at the heart of democratic systems. The broader thesis seems to be that the Singapore Consensus could not have been constructed without its Legal Consensus, itself a result of the consistent complicity of the Singapore judiciary. This book hints at the power relations and dynamics between the political establishment and the Singapore judiciary.

Criminalising Critique of the Singapore Judiciary

by Assoc. Prof. TEY Tsun Hang


Despite its small size, Singapore occupies a position of special significance in the debate on the relationship between economic development and political, social and legal institutions. The ruling People’s Action Party (PAP) of Singapore legitimises its authoritarian political regime – and insulates it from substantive scrutiny – via a three-pronged strategy: first, through its tightly controlled media and communication channels; secondly, by delivering an admirable economic performance and, creating and maintaining an awe-inspiring standard of living; and thirdly – and most importantly – through its legal institutions. However, there are profound logical flaws and stark absences of consistency in the judgments that help secure this legal state of affairs. This article confines its analysis to the criminal offence of scandalising the judiciary, in the context of critical reporting of the judgments in political defamation cases in Singapore.


Judicial Internalising of Singapore’s Supreme Political Ideology

by Assoc. Prof. TEY Tsun Hang


Right from the beginning of Singapore’s nationhood, an obvious and unbridgeable disconnect appeared – between its leadership’s political ideology and the aspirations on human rights and constitutionalism of its legal community. Singapore’s political leadership has spent much energy articulating a “pragmatic” ideology on political governance – placing primacy on economic progress, good governance and nation-building and emphasising a “communitarian” approach to human rights instead of individual rights. The political leadership’s conception of the rule of law smacks of a “thin” one. The government religiously adheres to legal formalities,rather than substantive theories of political morality, to legitimise its actions, if primarily for the instrumental role of rule of law in economic prosperity. This article examines the government’s response to the seminal Court of Appeal case of Chng Suan Tze v Minister of Home Affairs, where the government’s immediate and hard-hitting constitutional and legislative amendments – overruling the court’s decision on a preventive detention case – clearly demonstrated its intent to ensure that the Singapore judiciary accept its limited role and that the judiciary accept a concept of the rule of law which should not be substantially different from that understood and accepted by the political leadership. This article examines in detail how the Singapore judiciary’s acceptance of the government’s “thin” conception of the rule of law has a direct bearing on the approach taken towards constitutional adjudication in Singapore.


Death Penalty Singapore-Style: Clinical and Carefree

by Assoc. Prof. TEY Tsun Hang


Singapore has developed a jurisprudence that death penalty and capital proceedings are no different from other minor criminal proceedings. Instead of scrutinising criminal legislation on their substantive fairness, the courts have instead consistently restricted their adjudicative function to one of procedural assessment. In so doing, formalistic and textualist techniques are employed to achieve crime control ends at considerable expense of due process. This paper seeks to discuss the jurisprudence that has been moulded, and examines how much it has deviated from other Commonwealth jurisprudence.


Singapore’s jurisprudence of political defamation and its triple-whammy impact on political speech

by Assoc. Prof. TEY Tsun Hang

Singapore’s governing People’s Action Party (PAP) leadership has always been sensitive towards political criticism. Singapore has a highly sophisticated legal framework that imposes close and strict regulation on the local press and media system. The foreign media is also subject to considerable political control. Informal “out-of-bounds (OB) markers” had been mentioned and reported in the local press, in an attempt to give some clarity to the boundary of what the Singapore political leadership considered to be legitimate political criticism.

There have been consistent criticisms that the frequent use of defamation actions by the Singapore political leadership against opposition leaders and newspapers has the effect of silencing political dissent from within or without. It has been argued that this trend of political defamation actions is a violation of the fundamental constitutional right to freely hold and peacefully express one’s political opinions, and that it amounts to severe restrictions on freedom of expression that cannot be justified under international standards, seriously compromising the fundamental right to make political expression freely in public without fear of reprisal.


Singapore’s electoral system: government by the people?

by Assoc. Prof. TEY Tsun Hang


Singapore’s Westminster parliamentary system of government was adopted as a historical result of it being a British colony. In its post-independence constitutional development, the dominant People’s Action Party political leadership had made a series of constitutional amendments to its original electoral system, introducing innovative schemes such as Group Representation Constituencies, Non-Constituency Members of Parliament, Nominated Members of Parliament and the Elected Presidency. These changes have resulted in an electoral system that is so different and divergent from the Westminster model that it should be regarded a unique regime of its own. This paper advances the view that the constitutional evolution of its electoral system is reflective of a political vision structured along elitist lines – underscored by a desire to restructure the voting behaviour of its citizens, and ensure predictability and the preservation of the status quo. It has been driven by paternalistic assumptions about what is beneficial for its citizens. This paper examines the subsequent implementation of the schemes, before reflecting on how it is a system that has the potential to affect adversely the development of political participation and political pluralism, and dilute democratic politics in Singapore.


Excluding Religion from Politics and Enforcing Religious Harmony – Singapore-style

by Assoc. Prof. TEY Tsun Hang


The Maintenance of Religious Harmony Act is a unique feature in the legal landscape of Singapore. The statute – an important part of the Singapore government’s large and extensive arsenal of legal instruments to regulate inter-ethnic-religious relations in the country – gives the executive untrammelled discretion to curb political expression and political activity in the interests of maintaining religious harmony. Placed against the backdrop of its political developments, this article explores the political motives for the introduction of the statute, examines the exact nature of its structure and scope, and compares it against other legal instruments that perform similar political control. A particular focus is upon how the statute underscores the thinking behind Singapore-style state paternalism, and reflects its political leadership’s deep distrust of the electorate, and instinct to restructure voting behaviour and party politics. This article also reflects on the adverse effect of such enforced stricture on otherwise legitimate political activities by religion-linked organisations in Singapore.


Confining the Freedom of the Press in Singapore: A “Pragmatic” Press for “Nation-Building”?

by Assoc. Prof. TEY Tsun Hang


Singapore’s political leadership has molded a sophisticated press control regime that befits its “pragmatic” political ideology on the primacy of executive leadership and limited freedom of expression. This article – setting Singapore’s constitutional and legal framework and political system as a backdrop – delves into the legal structure that has been constructed, fine-tuned, and consolidated over decades of legislative amendments to explore its essential features and strictures. This article advances the view that the legal framework is reinforced with a non-legal combination of an ideological construct of a hegemonic culture and consensus politics through strategic political co-optation. The court litigation that was resorted to for vindication also seems to have produced a reinforcing effect. The article also reflects on how the unique press control regime has turned Singapore’s de-constructed Fourth Estate into an established political institution.