Corpun file 23945 at www.corpun.com
Singapore Daily News, 23 December 1932, p.1
Fines And Rotan For Chinese Schoolboys.
Eloquent Defence Fails.
"Not The Slightest Sympathy With Communism."
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At the conclusion of the case against certain of the
students of the Chinese High School, Bukit Timah, the district
judge convicted all the accused, binding them over for a year and
imposing various fines and ordering the infliction of the rotan.
His honour said he had been assured by the bailors, parents and
school authorities that full inquiries were going to be
instituted with a view to preventing any repetition of the
Yesterday counsel delivered their speeches for the defence. Among
the arguments advanced were that none of the students had the
slightest sympathy with communism, there were no preparations
among themselves for a procession, the arrests were made before
the crowd became an unlawful assembly, and that the whole
exhibition was more an exhibition of youthful exuberance than
One counsel contended that to bring "this poor little
morsel" (a boy of 12) to court in an attempt to prove that
he overawed the Government was ridiculous.
Mr. Barry, for the prosecution, said that the presence of the
large number of youths was explained by the fact that the
organisers of such demonstrations always put women and boys at
It is understood that all the accused are appealing against the
"A WEE TIMOROUS MOUSIE."
Mr. J.C. Cobbett (for accused 7 and 11, both aged 14) said
that his clients had been accused of throwing pamphlets which
both denied. The evidence for and against them was about level
and they should, therefore, get the benefit of the doubt.
As regards accused 37, aged 12, counsel submitted that there was
no evidence against him except that he was arrested in the mob
and this was the same as regards accused 42 and 45, both aged 14.
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"Like All Schoolboys."
There was really no evidence against any of these accused,
continued Mr. Cobbett, except that they had been mixed up with
the crowd. It was, however, not possible that they could have
been there with any common object. It was very probable that like
all schoolboys when they saw a crowd they went up to see what all
the fun was about. The mere fact of their having done so did not
make them members of an unlawful assembly.
Counsel then read out a relative passage from Maine which clearly
stated that intention was an essential element, and insisted that
it was essential to prove intention.
Mr. S.B. Tan prefaced his address by saying that he associated
himself with all the arguments about unlawful assembly advanced
by Mr. Cobbett.
He would, he said, like to give an assurance at the outset that
none of the students had the slightest sympathy with communistic
theories and also that none of them had the faintest idea of the
meaning of Communism or the Aliens Bill.
It was essential to prove that each one of them had been animated
with a common object and submitted that there was no evidence
that they were members of an unlawful assembly, Even assuming
that they were, the essential element of intention was missing.
He would go even further, counsel continued, and say that the
three essential features that had been abundantly proved went to
prove that there had been no intention.
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The first of these was that they formed part of a Hylam
procession. As a matter of fact none of these students was a
Hylam. The extreme provincialism of Chinese was well known and
nobody had ever heard of a procession of mixed provincials.
The second feature was the contention of the prosecution that
this was an organised procession which had been planned long
ahead and had come off according to plan. They attempted to prove
this by the evidence of Inspectors Dale and Trewin and of
Sub-Inspector Ah Long.
Counsel argued that if the students had really intended this to
be an organised affair they would have made preparations among
themselves and not joined in a procession organised by others.
There was no evidence to prove that the processions in Victoria
Street and Arab Street were composed of students or even that
they had been there in a body. As a matter of fact, each one of
them had been arrested singly. This fact excluded the possibility
of this having been an organised procession as far as the
students were concerned.
The third feature, Mr. Tan went on, was that the crowds were in
compact bodies and were doing no violence before the police took
action. After reading extracts from Inspector Trewin's evidence
and that of Sub-Inspector Ah Long and the detectives, counsel
submitted that for a crowd of such an alarming nature as alleged
by the prosecution there was no violence even when the arrests
were being made. The only evidence of violence was in Inspector
Trewin's case and even then the attempts at resistance were very
Arrested While Running Away.
Counsel again stressed the point that the crowd was in a
compact body. All the shops in the neighbourhood were open and
anybody who joined the procession could have had no knowledge
that there existed any unlawful intention on the part of a few.
The first intimation that the students could have had that there
was something wrong was when the police took action. Directly
they knew this they attempted to escape from an unfortunate
predicament. The accused were in fact arrested while they were
This fact, counsel maintained, did not prove any guilty knowledge
on the part of the accused and submitted that no evidence had
been adduced by the prosecution to prove that the students formed
part of an unlawful assembly. There was decidedly no evidence
that they had any guilty intention.
After reading extracts from Gour, counsel pointed out that the
arrests were made before the crowd became an unlawful assembly.
The only point that the prosecution could emphasise against the
accused was that twenty-eight of them had been arrested in the
locality. This, argued Mr. Tan, was not an extraordinary
coincidence in view of the circumstances. First, it was a holiday
in the school, and the students were at liberty to go out;
secondly, the junction of Queen Street and Rochore Road was a bus
stand and thirdly, there were stalls in Arab Street where
bargains could be had. Besides, counsel said, Chinese were always
attracted by the glitter of night life.
Even assuming that the students knew that there was going to be a
demonstration that evening and attended it, it could not he held
that they were thereby propagating communist propaganda or
protesting against the Aliens Bill. In these circumstances a
conviction could not be justified.
Click to enlarge
Shouting In Drain.
The only evidence against accused 20 was that he was shouting.
There was nothing extraordinary in a boy of 13 shouting when he
found himself in the drain.
Referring to the accused who were alleged to have literature or
broomsticks, counsel suggested the possibility of a mistake.
Among the number or people distributing pamphlets it was not
possible to identify anybody with any degree of certainty.
Again there was the possibility of innocent possession. The
police said that when some of the accused were arrested they had
pamphlets in their possession. If they knew the nature of these,
counsel submitted that they would have thrown them away before
being arrested. The most probable explanation was that they
received these handbills in the street and put them in their
pockets to read later.
In conclusion, Mr. Tan said that he hoped the court would not
brand the accused as Communists when they had no such intention
and appealed that they should be given the benefit of the doubt.
All of them were still young and an acquittal would prove a
blessing in disguise and do more to show them the error of their
Mr. D.P. Dunderdale, appearing for accused 19, associated himself
with Mr. Tan with regard to the legal points raised. He, too,
maintained that the mere fact that his client was present at the
scene of the disturbance after the demonstration was not
sufficient proof that he was a member of an unlawful assembly.
The explanation put forward by his client from the box had been
amply corroborated by three witnesses and brought him clearly out
of the ruck of the other accused.
Difficult To Distinguish.
The reason for accused's presence was that quite fortuitously
two constables came to his uncle's shop and gave the news which
induced the boy to go out and investigate. In the midst of the
number of spectators, it was difficult for the police to
distinguish participants and lookers-on. Counsel submitted that
this was a case in which the police had made a mistake.
Mr. Dunderdale then reminded his honour of the Chinese
clergyman's evidence regarding his client and the demeanour of
the accused in the box proved that he was of a reserved and
studious disposition. His client had been arrested in company
with accused 18 and had waited until the latter had been put into
the police van and the constable had come back for him. If he had
been really guilty the accused would have taken advantage of the
respite and escaped.
The essence of the offence of unlawful assembly was force.
Other considerations were the age and sex of the demonstrators,
the weapons used and the effect of the demonstrators on other
members of the community. With regard to the weapons used,
broomsticks could not be regarded as weapons but as implements.
In this instance the brooms used had been aptly described by
Inspector Trewin as symbolic. With regard to the effect on the
public, no person of ordinary courage or intelligence could have
been intimidated by this mob.
Again the fact that the round-up occupied only five or ten
minutes proved beyond doubt that the crowd had no intention of
resisting the police.
The whole incident, concluded counsel, was more an exhibition of
youthful exuberance than anything else. Accused 19 had nothing to
do with the assembly and his presence was only an unfortunate
Mr. W.H. Salt said that he had nothing to add to the legal points
raised by Mr. Tan. If the police could have differentiated
between participants and spectators of the demonstrations these
accused would never have been charged. Inspector Trewin in
particular could have seen very little of a definitive nature
while he was down in a five-foot drain while the rest of the
police evidence was equally open to conjecture.
His client (accused 15) was wholly unshaken by the rather severe
cross-examination of the prosecution. Referring to the
distribution of pamphlets, counsel argued that the shopkeepers
and others who received them should also have been arrested.
Dealing with the carrying of broomsticks, counsel submitted that
the prosecution had not made it clear at all that it was an
offence. He jocularly compared it with Admiral Van Tromp sailing
the English Channel with one lashed to his mast-head.
"Wee Timorous Mousie."
Accused 20 reminded him of Burns' description of a "wee
timorous mousie" and to bring that "poor little
morsel" to court and attempt to prove that he overawed the
Government was ridiculous. Counsel contended that the prosecution
had gone much too far and had thereby interfered with the liberty
of the subject.
Curiosity, continued Mr. Salt, was an inherent quality not
restricted to schoolboys and all they did was to see what the
demonstration was all about. He submitted, in conclusion, that
the charge was ludicrous.
Mr. D.N. Bannerjea said that the only actual demonstration
according to the evidence was the one in Victoria Street which
constituted about 200 Hylams. He wished particularly to draw his
honour's attention to the fact that the other procession came
from the direction of Queen Street. When the Hylams were tackled
by Inspector Trewin they retreated and met the second procession
at the corner of Arab Street.
Counsel urged that a distinction should he made between those who
carried pamphlets and banners and others who were mere
spectators. He suggested that the better course for the police to
have pursued would have been to have exercised the discretion
given them by the Criminal Procedure Code and turned the boys
Mr. J.C. Barry, A.S.P., said that Dec. 11 was the anniversary
of the Canton uprising and was an important day in the Communist
calendar. This year they had the added inducement of the Aliens
The presence of a large number of youths was explained by the
fact that organisers of such demonstrations always put women and
boys at their head.
It was impossible that such a number of students should be
present together at one place should be only a coincidence,
continued Mr. Barry. The locality where they all met was,
besides, a very convenient one as it was at the terminus of buses
coming from Bukit Timah.
He maintained that the police evidence against accused 19 (Mr.
Dunderdale's client) was very clear indeed and proceeded to
comment on the similarity of the defence put forward by the rest.
If his honour would not see fit to convict the accused under the
section they were charged under, he would call his honour's
attention to a section in the Criminal Procedure Code and bind
His honour said that he had been assured by the bailors, parents
and school authorities that full inquiries were going to be made
into the incident with a view to checking a repetition.
Before giving his verdict, he would like to say that the police
had acted with the greatest possible tact, care and discretion.
There was nothing the police hated more than to deal with street
disturbances and the care exercised could be gauged from the fact
that only one case had been brought to his notice of a boy having
It was evident that the police took care only to go for people in
the crowd and not for anybody on the pavements and this made it
clear that all those who had been arrested had been taking part
in the demonstration.
His honour thereupon convicted all the accused and sentenced them
as follows:-- accused 4 (16 years old), $25 or one month and
bound over in $200 for one year in one surety; accused 16 and 53
(15 years old), 6 strokes of the rotan and bound over in $200
with one surety for one year; accused 6, 18, 19, 26, 28, 30, 31,
35, 41, 42. 43 and 49 to a fine of $25 or one month and bound
over in $200 in one surety for one month; accused 5, 11, 15, 27,
29, 34, 42 and 44 (all aged 14) to five strokes of the rotan and
bound over in $200 with one surety for one year; accused 36 to be
bound over for one year in $200 with one surety; accused 37 and
45 to the same sentence with the addition of 4 strokes of the
rotan; and accused 17 and 20 (aged 12) to three strokes of the
rotan and bound over in $200 for one year with one surety.
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