The two workers from China who were arrested after kneeling outside of Singapore’s Ministry of Manpower office in protest over an agency fee were sentenced to five weeks in jail this week.
Bao Weilong, 29, and his wife Yang Xuemei, 28, were seen in photographs kneeling in the middle lane of Bendemeer Road outside the MOM Service Center at around noon on August 24 holding sheets of paper with messages written in Chinese.
Yang, a sales assistant, had gone to the office in hopes of getting back a refund of the $6,000 fee she’d paid to an agency to help her find work in Singapore, according to the Straits Times.
Deputy Public Prosecutor Kumaresan Gohulabalan told the court that when a customer service officer informed them that MOM could not help her, the couple proceeded to the foyer and knelt – each holding an A4 sheet of paper with a message saying that Yang had been cheated by an agent and needed MOM’s help to get a refund of the agency fees.
Subsequently, three MOM officers ushered them to an interview room. As a settlement could not be reached, the couple then proceeded to the pavement near the bus stop outside the centre and knelt again with the same pieces of paper. They were seen to be crying.
MOM officers persuaded them to return to the interview room again. Another discussion was held with the couple and Yang’s local agent, who had been asked to go there.
When the couple heard that only half the fees could be refunded, Bao told his wife not to waste time but to “carry out Plan B”. They left and knelt on Bendemeer Road in the midst of oncoming traffic, clutching the messages.
The couple pleaded guilty to committing a rash act and criminal trespassing. Bao expressed feeling “sorry and remorseful” for the act, while Yang said she was unaware of laws in Singapore and had parents and children to support back in China.
Public demonstrations are seldom seen outside of Singapore’s Hong Lim Park, the only venue where protests are allowed, as such events require police permits.
[Image via ifeng.com]