Lim Hock Siew: A life without conviction, without idealism, is a mere meaningless existence.

When you’re young, you are idealistic. When you’re old, you are realistic. Now this is the kind of rubbish that is used by those who have lost their ideals, or have sold their ideals for self-interest. Age should not wither one ideals or convictions. If anything, it should only consolidate, and make it more resolute. If age has got to do with it, it is only by the way of expression and application of these ideals and convictions, having the benefit of a youthful experience. A life without conviction, without idealism, is a mere meaningless existence.

– Lim Hock Siew


Validity of factual information shared by Lim Hock Siew in the video is up to viewer’s discretion. As such, I hope readers can do their own research and analysis, before forming their own balanced insights towards the matter e.g. Operation Spectrum/Coldstore, political prisoners, ISA.

Who is Lim Hock Siew?

According to Singapore Rebel (Sept 3, 2009):

Dr Lim Hock Siew was a founding member of the PAP. But like many of his anti-colonialist colleagues of the PAP, Lim broke away from the PAP and formed the opposition Barisan Sosialis in 1961. On 2nd February 1963, he was arrested and detained under Operation Coldstore. Even after Singapore’s independence in 1965, Lim continued to be detained under the Internal Security Act by Lee Kuan Yew’s government. On 6th of September 1982, he was finally released, capping a 19 years 8 months incarceration – making him Singapore’s longest-held political prisoner after Chia Thye Poh.

Why the film “Dr Lim Hock Siew” was banned in Singapore?


According to Singapore Rebel (July 12 2010):

The film, which I had labelled “Dr Lim Hock Siew”, was submitted to the Board of Film Censors in February 2010. Since then, it had been undergoing review by the Political Films Consultative Committee (PFCC), a seven-member advisory panel set up to criminalise “party political films”, an offence under Section 33 of the Films Act. Since the PFCC has never communicated with me, I have no idea what the committee had thought of the film. A moot point now, as RADM Lui Tuck Yew, the Acting Minister for Information, Communications & the Arts, has now decided to ban the film outright. 

 According to Claire Huang (July 12, 2010):

SINGAPORE: Censors have banned the film “Dr Lim Hock Siew” by filmmaker Martyn See Tong Ming, with effect from July 14 under the Films Act, saying it is against ‘public interest’.

A statement from the Information, Communications and the Arts Ministry said the film “gives a distorted and misleading portrayal of Dr Lim’s arrests and detention under the Internal Security Act (ISA) in 1963.”

It added that the government “will not allow individuals who have posed a security threat to Singapore’s interests in the past, to use media platforms such as films to make baseless accusations against the authorities.”

Neither will it allow such individuals to use films to give a false portrayal to exculpate their guilt, or undermine public confidence in the government.

Though the film is supposedly banned by the censorship board, it can still be easily accessed through Youtube. I did a summary a few of the points Lim Hock Siew brought up during his reading. Press censorship was mentioned a few times in the video (*do watch through the video to hear the incidents that were suppressed by the mainstream press, according to Lee Hock Siew), though I did not mention any of them in my summary below:

~ Summary of a few points brought up by Lim Hock Siew ~

After 9 year of incarceration, they wanted me to issue a statement to firstly, support the so-called democratic state in Singapore, and secondly to denounce politics. I told them that these two demands are self-contradictory, because if there is parliament democracy, then I don’t have to give up politics. So they said “You must say something to show repentance, otherwise Lee Kuan Yew will lose face.”

For me this is not a question of pride, it’s a question of principle. In the first place, if a person has to save his face by depriving somebody else of his fundamental rights, then that’s not a face worth saving…democratic right is a fundamental constitutional right for the people of Singapore.

…So the whole thing bogged down to to having to issue a state of repentance which I refused. Subsequently, I was detained for another over 10 years, after that statement was issued. So a total of 19 years and 8 months, longer than a life sentence. Life sentences will be released after 13 years, after the initial one-third remission. But for no charge, no trial, I was detained for longer than a life sentence.

A lot of hullabaloo had been said recently on the rights of political detainees to appeal to an Advisory Board..

…I said I wanted to keep these sheets of paper so I could prepare for my next morning’s appearance. They said, “No. You cannot keep it. Just read it and we’ll take it back.” I said I “wanted to inform my lawyer.” They said “No, you have the right to inform your lawyer, but you cannot telephone him now.” I said “In that case, how do I contact my lawyer?” He said, “That’s the law.”

..On these so-called charge sheets, there were a lot of blank spaces. I asked Judge Winslow what does these blank spaces mean? He said “Oh, these charges which are so sensitive that can be shown only to the Advisory Board but not to you.” I said How the hell can anybody protect himself against a charge that’s not even revealed to him? I asked him for advice. He just said: [*shrug shoulders]. I said “Is this a mockery of justice or what?” He said “This is the law.”

..One of the charges was in fact a false charge. I was charged for being one of the eight Fajar students who were charged for sedition… So why should I be imprisoned for allegedly being one of the eight, when these eight were acquitted without being called, and acquitted and defended by Mr Lee Kuan Yew himself who is now detaining me? He said “This is the law.” Everything is the law.

..They did not sign my detention order. It was supposed to be signed by the minister. But it was dedicated to a civil servant. So on that account, the court to released me on a technical point…I was re-arrested one minute later. It was a mock release. ..And for that habeas corpus, I was punished, sent to the most hideous of all detention centres.

… I will read to you what Lee Kuan Yew said of solitary confinement:The biggest punishment a man can receive is total isolation. In a dungeon, black and complete withdrawal of all stimuli. That is real torture.” – Lee Kuan Yew, January 2008.

 ..Some of us had to undergo this real torture…for six months. Now under the law, there is a protection for even criminal prisoners from this kind of torture. A prisoner when found guilty of infringing prison rules, will be sentenced to solitary confinement for not more than two weeks, because of the obvious mental ill-health effects. But for political detainees, there is no protection.

..We stood our ground and held on to our integrity… I stood firm and suffer for 2 decades. That is the price we have to pay for our integrity.

..And when you are detained, you are subjected to all kinds of mental and even physical torture. This is not only unique for the 1963 batch. It was also practiced in many other batches of detention: 1972, and as late as 1987.

..And today, PAP is standing on high moral grounds, even demanding the release of political detainees in Myanmar. But precisely on what moral ground are they standing on this demand?.. Let them repent first their old dismal record of human rights, and then you may have the moral right to cast aspersions on other people’s lack of human rights…

..Some of you may have heard: When you’re young, you are idealistic. When you’re old, you are realistic. Now this is the kind of rubbish that is used by those who have lost their ideals, or have sold their ideals for self-interest. Age should not wither one ideals or convictions. If anything, it should only consolidate, and make it more resolute. If age has got to do with it, it is only by the way of expression and application of these ideals and convictions, having the benefit of a youthful experience. A life without conviction, without idealism, is a mere meaningless existence. And I’m sure most of you will agree that as human beings, we are worthy of a life much more meaningful than that.

Screenshots from The Fajar Generation (2010) Jing.Q.T, Kay.Y.K, Soo.P.K:






Other relevant Offbeat Perspective’s posts


Interview with Jason Soo, Director of 1987: Untracing The Conspiracy on the Marxist Conspiracy, and ISA


Xperimental Pathways: (Sean Francis Han) Radical, Intellectual, Activist.


Said Zahari on his detention, Lim chin siong, Communist label, and Lee kuan yew [Investigative journalism]


MINISTER TAN CHUAN JIN, ISA, MARXIST CONSPIRACY, CIVIL SOCIETY, GOVERNMENTAL FUNDINGS (*In the bottom page of this article link, are relevant  Operation Coldstore/Spectrum articles and videos)


[Investigative Journalism] 6 Political Videos & Singapore’s Censorship



          Operation Coldstore, Operation Spectrum, Political Detainees

  • Articles

1994 – 2015: A Chronology of Authoritarian Rule in Singapore

Operation Coldstore: The evidence is clear, says PM 

50th Anniversary of Operation Cold Store

Operation Coldstore: No evidence of communist conspiracy

What Really Went Down In Operation Cold Store

“Marxist Conspiracy” arrests – 20 years on

19 Forgotten Political Prisoners Of The Past

  • Accounts of abuse

An open letter to PAP : Torture and the abuse of ISA

More ex-detainees speak out : Political violence and the abuse of the ISA in Singapore

Surviving long-term detention without trial

The life and times of Ho Piao : The torture of a political prisoner

23 years after Operation Spectrum : Ex-detainees recall mental and physical abuses

Political detention in Singapore : Prisoner case histories

  • Videos on Operation Coldstore/Spectrum / Political Prisoners

Collated a list of videos to check out which can be found at the bottom page of this below article: MINISTER TAN CHUAN JIN, ISA, MARXIST CONSPIRACY, CIVIL SOCIETY, GOVERNMENTAL FUNDINGS


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Picture source: Xin Guo Zhi



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