Alex Tan

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Alex Tan Zhixiang
陈智祥

Alex Tan Zhixiang (simplified Chinese: 陈智祥; traditional Chinese: 陳智祥; pinyin: Chén Zhì Xiáng) is a self-exiled Singaporean political dissident who sought Australian asylum.[1] Tan was a former editor of Temasek Review, a now-defunct socio-political website that mainly produced articles to troll Singapore. With effect from 7 May 2020, his Facebook pages and website are officially banned in Singapore by the government in accordance with its POFMA[2] Fake News laws.[3][4][5]

Activism[edit]

Tan was an editor and one of the contributors and founders of the sociopolitical website The Real Singapore (TRS). [6]

In January 2011, Tan reproduced a blog post on one of his websites, "Temasek Revealed", which claimed that a full-time national serviceman had died after being shot during training. The post subsequently went Viral. After the Ministry of Defence identified the post as a hoax and made a police report, a 19-year-old was arrested and charged for "transmitting false messages to the public", an offense under Singapore's telecommunications laws. "Temasek Revealed" was taken offline after the incident.

In July 2012, Tan sent SBS Transit an "expletive-filled rant in an e-mail" following a trip on one of its buses, which also propagated on local forums and social media sites. Following SBS Transit's complaints to police, Tan published an apology on his blog which he said "maligned the good work SBS Transit Ltd has done for Singapore" which amounted to "blesphemous libel", in return for the company to stop pursuing the matter. The company acknowledged Tan's apology and offer to retract his previous statements.[7]

On 6 Feb 2015, two editors of TRS, Ai Takagi and Robin Yang Kai Heng, were arrested under the Sedition Act for sedition charges. Tan moved to Australia soon after and The Real Singapore was shut down on 3 May 2015 by order of the Media Development Authority of Singapore. He subsequently started a new website called Straits Times Review, later changing its name to States Times Review.[8] Law minister K Shanmugam had identified Straits Times Review as a publisher of fake news, citing the site's claim of a "near-zero turnout for former president SR Nathan’s funeral, and that kindergarten kids were forced to attend, in an attempt to paint him as an unpopular president".[9][10]

Political career[edit]

Tan contested under the Reform Party banner in 2011 as his party, the Singapore People's Party, was not interested in contesting in the Prime Minister's ward. As the main organizer of the two parties' joint walkabouts, Tan sought the Reform Party's help to contest in Ang Mo Kio GRC. The Reform Party then "loaned" Alex from the Singapore People's Party to contest in the ward.

In his maiden election speech, Tan underscored the lack of a social safety net for the elderly in Singapore and the influx of foreigners that has diluted Singaporeans' identity. Other campaigning issues he took on included the state of overcrowding, cost of living and the lack of transparency and accountability in the national retirement fund, the Central Provident Fund, and the national reserves. In one of his speeches, Tan questioned Dr Vivian Balakrishnan about statements Balakrishnan had made about the government wealth fund GIC's portfolio having returned to pre-crisis levels and claimed that no statistics or figures were provided to back up the statements.

In an open letter on the States Times Review, Tan challenged law minister K Shanmugam to face-off against each other in a Single Member Constituency at the 2020 general elections.[11]

Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act[edit]

In April 2020, multiple Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act correction notices were issued to Tan on 4 occasions.[12][13][14][15]

In May 2020, Tan was issued another correction notice for spreading online falsehoods and manipulation.[16]

Other activities[edit]

In July 2011, Wang Peng Fei, a People Republic of China (PRC) student in Singapore made derogatory remarks against a Malay woman in his YouTube video post, and Tan lodged an official police report against him. The PRC student was subsequently expelled.[17] Another PRC student, Sun Xu, who made a disparaging comment about Singaporeans (referring them as dogs), was also reported by Alex.[18]

Controversies[edit]

Allegations of Singapore government's role in 1MDB scandal[edit]

On 6 November 2018, States Times Review published an article "Lee Hsien Loong becomes 1MDB's key investigation target", alleging that Malaysia had signed several unfair agreements with Singapore in exchange for Singapore banks’ assistance in laundering the Malaysian state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) and implying that Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong is complicit in the money laundering on 1MDB. The Coverage of Malaysia subsequently published an article based on the content of this article, leading to the Monetary Authority of Singapore to file a police report against him for "impugning its integrity".[19] K Shanmugam also called out the 'absurd' allegations and warned that such a method of propagating fake news has been used successfully in other parts of the world, and that when the information appears in mainstream media it gives "some credence" to the falsehoods.[20]

The article also claimed that editor Ms Clare Rewcastle of Sarawak Report (SR) said in an interview with Malaysian media that Singapore, along with the United States and Switzerland, were key investigation targets in the 1MDB scandal. In response, SR called the interview "erroneous" and disowned the claim, saying that "SR (had) not given any such interview and (had) not written on this subject" and that "the article moreover (was) unclear in its direction and meaning."[21]

On 9 November, the Info-communications Media Development Authority (IMDA) ordered States Times Review to take down the article or face blocked access by the Internet Service Providers (ISP) should it fail to do so by 5 pm that day.[21] However, States Times Review refused to remove the alleged offending article on a Facebook post at 6 pm that day, with Tan even inviting Lee Hsien Loong to file a case with Australian authorities.[22] As such, IMDA would direct ISPs to block States Times Review as it had not complied to the order by 5 pm that day. However Facebook had refused to take down the article from its platform as revealed by the Ministry of Law, which justified the necessity for legislation to defend Singapore from deliberate online falsehoods since "FB (could not) be relied upon to filter falsehoods or protect Singapore from a false information campaign."[23]

Shortly after the blocked access to the offending article, Tan would announce that he would shut down States Times Review after the next Singaporean general election due to be held by January 2021 and its Facebook page by 23 November 2018, saying that he would 'stop writing and continue life in Australia'.[24] However, he also indicated that he would be offering help to a Toronto-based reader, a dual citizen of Canada and Singapore, to help start a new website Singapore Herald, whose server would be based in Burlington, Massachusetts.[25]

Banned and Blocked in Singapore[edit]

Facebook has blocked access to the State Times Review’s (STR) page in Singapore, after it was instructed to do so on Monday (Feb 17) by the office overseeing the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (POFMA).[26][27][28]

References[edit]

  1. ^ https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/man-refuses-to-obey-correction-order-under-fake-news-law
  2. ^ https://www.pofmaoffice.gov.sg/
  3. ^ https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/singapore/facebook-blocks-singapore-users-access-states-times-review-pofma-12446952
  4. ^ https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/singapore/states-times-review-declared-online-location-pofma-covid19-12437918
  5. ^ https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/singapore/pofma-facebook-disable-singapore-states-times-review-covid19-12443134
  6. ^ http://news.asiaone.com/News/Latest+News/Singapore/Story/A1Story20120216-328313.html
  7. ^ http://transport.asiaone.com/news/general/story/blogger-apologises-sending-e-mail-rant-sbs Archived 2016-10-27 at the Wayback Machine Blogger apologises for sending e-mail rant to SBS
  8. ^ "Former TRS editor sets up new website Straits Times Review". TODAYonline. Retrieved 2016-05-27.
  9. ^ http://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/singapore/government--seriously-considering--how-to-deal-with-fake-news-sh-8712436
  10. ^ http://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/experts-welcome-laws-to-curb-fake-news
  11. ^ https://statestimesreview.com/2017/04/03/dear-law-minister-you-are-just-another-corrupted-dictator/
  12. ^ https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/singapore/temasek-review-issued-pofma-correction-direction-grab-rider-12652054
  13. ^ https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/singapore/singapore-states-times-pofma-covid-19-reporting-moh-cases-12655552
  14. ^ https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/singapore/pofma-hardwarezone-user-temasek-review-toc-ho-ching-salary-12656976
  15. ^ https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/singapore/foreign-workers-dorms-pofma-alex-tan-singapore-states-times-12614908
  16. ^ https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/singapore-states-times-ordered-to-correct-post-alleging-students-and-teachers-contracted
  17. ^ "Foreign student expelled for making racist video". Archived from the original on 2013-04-18.
  18. ^ "Corrosive Speech: What Can Be Done" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2015-05-18. Retrieved 2015-05-11.
  19. ^ "MAS files police report against author of 'baseless' States Times Review article".
  20. ^ "Shanmugam says States Times Review article has 'absurd allegations', questions how Malaysian media picked up story".
  21. ^ a b "IMDA orders States Times Review to take down 'objectionable' article".
  22. ^ "States Times Review refuses to take down article linking PM Lee with 1MDB".
  23. ^ "Facebook declines S'pore govt request to take down States Times Review post linking PM Lee with 1MDB".
  24. ^ "States Times Review to close down after getting blocked in S'pore by authorities".
  25. ^ "States Times Review founder helps start new overseas-based Singapore Herald website".
  26. ^ https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/singapore/facebook-blocks-singapore-users-access-states-times-review-pofma-12446952
  27. ^ https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/singapore/states-times-review-declared-online-location-pofma-covid19-12437918
  28. ^ https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/singapore/pofma-facebook-disable-singapore-states-times-review-covid19-12443134