When asked if it is problematic for other Singaporeans to be involved with CPPCC, Asst Prof Loh said that any involvement with foreign political bodies “is inherently sensitive” and must not come at the expense of Singapore’s interests.

“I think what was helpful in the case of Philip Chan was that there was evidence presented publicly in the media that showed very clearly … even to a layperson, that the activities crossed a red line,” added Asst Prof Loh.

“The bar for this red line should be high and in this case, in my view, the bar has been well met.”

Asst Prof Ho said that Mr Chan’s designation sends a signal to others that “ultimately, Singapore’s interests are meant for Singaporeans to adjudicate”.

“Whether that signal is strong enough to stop other people who are involved, I think we can only wait and tell.” 

POLITICAL ENDS

As for how the Singapore authorities define someone’s activities as being directed towards a political end, the experts noted that this has – likely intentionally – been vague so far.

Both Asst Profs Ho and Loh said it should not be defined too clearly as it could prompt people to find ways to circumvent the FICA provisions.

Asst Prof Loh said the vagueness “reflects the very real difficulties” in determining whether something is nefarious, or clearly directed towards political ends.

“If you have too neat a definition and say, only activities X and Y fall under this definition, then you are precluding all other activities that could also be used for political ends,” he said.

“This would not be helpful because influence activities are dynamic and constantly evolve: Bad actors will always look for loopholes.”

NTU’s Asst Prof Ho echoed this, adding: “You’ve got to trust that whatever concerns MHA have, is not without reason.”

On the other hand, Assoc Prof Chong from NUS said he hopes the relevant authorities can clarify what they mean by a “political end”.

“So long as people and entities exist in society, they are involved in politics and have political ends … Is this lobbying? If so, then many people and entities are involved, including citizens seeking their MPs’ help to make some change.”

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