First, thank you for your very useful blog. I am not a very big fan of the draconian PAP government but neither am I in awe of Teo Soh Lung and her kakis. Let me give my side of the story because I lived through that period and I even know quite a number of them.
First, Vincent Cheng and his group were detained because they were mixing religion with politics and they were using the Catholic Church as a cover to spread liberation theology and other leftists ideas. Vincent and his supporters were doing this through church publications and in Bible study groups.
In fact, six months or so before the arrest, the church was told by ISD to rein in Vincent and his supporters because they were preaching politics from the pulpit. They stopped for awhile and resumed.
This is dangerous because if the Catholics can do it, so too can the Muslims whose radical members want an Islamic state and Syriah laws. And so too can the Protestants, Buddhists, Hindus and Taoists. The result of this zero sum game would be tensions and conflicts.
And it is my opinion that Tan Wah Piow and Vincent were the main instigators in this plot. Even Teo Soh Lung who is so active now, she was just a peripher member then. Perhaps, that's why she is so upset today to the that point it has consumed her.
Wah Piow's close comrades in the University of Singapore were leftists and communist, like Juliet Chin who joined the Communist Party Malaya radio broadcast station in Southern China and Hong Konger Tsui Hon Kwong who confessed in his article in book, Escape from the Lion's Paw, that he was Maoist. These individuals were also recounted in Malayan Communist Chin Peng's book, My Side of History.
Tsui ran a small library of progressive Chinese books in a big box fixed to the back of his bicycle which he would park near the venues of Chinese Language Society's activities. Back in the university days, 'progressive' meant more or less Red. Juliet Chin was later settled in Europe with the aid of Wah Piow.
Wah Piow was the Malayan communist contact person in UK where he helped to settle political refugees as well as communist students. Vincent visited Wah Piow in the UK and was often in contact with him.
So the bottom line is this, are they what they made out themselves to be. Purely social activists and social workers? No, clearly no. Was it a crime to have aspirations for your society? No, but it was if you were a Red in those days just as they would put you away now if you were a JI member.
The core group of Vincent Cheng, Tay Hong Seng, William Yap, Chia Boon Tai, Kenneth Tsang, Jenny Chin and Theresa Lim are hardcore Marxists. Isn't it interesting how these people aren't that active, at least publicly, in the fight for 'justice'? After all Vincent was kept in detention the longest.
Perhaps for peripheral players like Teo Soh Lung, Wong Souk Yee and Tan Tee Seng, it was quite unfair for them to be held under ISA. They were merely part of the support group and perhaps that is why they are so angry. Perhaps that is why they are so active now in trying to gain public's attention to their case.
However, it doesn't mean one cannot be contribute back to society after being arrested under the ISA. I know one of the detainees, Ng Bee Leng, graduated from NUS in the 90s after her release from ISA. She went on to become a very active social and charity worker and was even appointed by MCYS for her volunteer work. Now, did the other "social activists" who were arrested under the ISA contribute back to society after there were released?
Thank you for reading my long letter.