Malaysia: Drop charge against student activist over peaceful protest

Responding to news that student activist Wong Yan Ke was criminally charged for protesting in October 2019 against what he described as a racially offensive speech by a university official, Preethi Bhardwaj Interim Director of Amnesty International Malaysia said:

“Malaysian authorities must immediately drop the charge against student activist Wong Yan Ke. This is yet another case of Malaysian citizens being investigated and charged in court for the legitimate exercise of their constitutionally guaranteed right to freedom of expression..

Malaysian authorities continue to use oppressive laws – such as the Penal Code, Sedition Act and the Communications and Multimedia Act to target peaceful protesters.

We urge the government to repeal laws restricting freedom of expression, and drop all charges against Wong Yan Ke and other individuals who are being persecuted using these laws. The government would do well to ratify the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and other human rights instruments, in order to bring Malaysia closer to complying with international standards.”

Background

On 14 Oct 2019, Wong Yan Ke staged a solo protest during University of Malaya’s (UM) graduation ceremony against the Vice-Chancellor Datuk Abdul Rahim Hashim for his speech during the Malay Dignity Congress.

Following Wong Yan Ke’s protest, UM released a statement criticizing his actions, and subsequently lodged a police report against him. He was charged under Section 504 of the Penal Code, which defines the offence of provocation with the intention of disturbing public peace. If found guilty, he faces up to two years of imprisonment, as well as a fine.