ed racially harassed by police at Changi Airport

Well, V (singaporean chinese girl working in the UK....and now back for the holidays) kept bugging the crap out of me to write about this experience....so here goes.

I arrived in singapore on the 15th of Jan in the evening via SQ with V.  I got to the baggage retrieval belt first and quite immediately got the attention of the customs police standing at the checkpoint near the entrance to the arrival hall.  Well, never mind. 

The Story

I loaded up both V’s and my hand-luggage onto one trolly, and our larger luggage onto another trolley.  V arrives.  She takes the trolley with the hand-luggage, and i, the trolley with the larger ones.  As i approach the customs point, a Malay police officer - a young bloke - rushes over and quite curtly, asks me, whilst ignoring V, ‘Sir, do you have anything to declare’.  ed says, ‘No’.  ‘Put your luggage through!’, says the police bloke, curtly, and with a frown.  ed gets pissed.  I stop right beside the police officer, point at him with my thumb, and call to V who has walked ahead a couple of steps, saying, ‘See what i said earlier.’  The police officer, or more like ‘boy in blue’, looks at me with surprise at my reaction, and then looks away, probably realising that he picked on the wrong Indian to screw around with.  V comes up, and he asks her to proceed out of the transit area without checking her.  The other two Malay officers look as if they feel bad about my being stopped by their colleague (credit to them), and one of them, a bloke, smiles at me attempting to calm me down, but it doesn’t work.....as i have a healthy sense of self-respect and don’t put up with racial harassment whatever the state. 

Ed says to them both, ‘For 20 bloody years in my travels to and from the UK, every single time i come through this airport, i get stopped!  Every single time i go through the UK airport, i NEVER get stopped.  I lived in HK for more than year, and i see others getting stopped at the airport or outside, but i never get stopped.  Can you tell me why i get stopped here?!”....as my luggage goes through the scanner.  The officer (not the boy who stopped me) smiles again in an embarrassed way....he obviously feels kind of bad.  The female officer then questions me after the contents of my luggage asking if i have some kind of machine in there.  I said, ‘keyboard’ (referring to my smaller-sized midi keyboard).  ‘Do you have another machine in there?’  I say, ‘no, i don’t think so’ (it’s only later that i realised that she was probably referring to my WDTV box which enables me to play digital files on the telly).  ‘Oh, it’s ok, never mind.  Thank you’.  Very polite girl....probably trying to make up for her colleague’s stopping me. 

I walk off with my luggage, and the other officer smiles at me again in an apologetic way, and i just shake my head.  The officer who stopped me looks steadily away.

The Conclusion

Is this racial harassment?  Throughout the time i was waiting for my luggage, i saw this police bloke stopping only one other person.  A white bloke.  All chinese were let through.  But as i attempt to walk through with V, i get stopped, and she doesn’t.  And the most incriminating part of it all is that if he really wanted to check my luggage, he would have had to stop her as well as she was carrying half my luggage.  After all, they saw me loading up both our luggage onto both trolleys.  And given that there were two hand-luggage on her trolley and two-larger ones on mine, wouldn’t it stand to reason that if he wanted to check my luggage, he would have to check the luggage of V's trolley as well?  Hence, the allegation that this stop was racially motivated becomes all the more plausible.


When V recounted this story to her mother, even she, in Hokkien, got angry and said, ‘how can they do this to him?  How come they stop him but never stop you?’.  My mum, a usually passive person, got pissed off as well.  ‘How come they go around bullying Indians?!”, said she.

if there are parallels to this behaviour in the social arena, then, whilst the police might stop the chinese or ‘normal’ people every now and then, when it comes to minorities, and especially those who stand out, they get stopped ALL the time.I said to V, “not only have I had to put up with discrimination that has led to my economic prospects being severely compromised - despite my upper second honours degree - now i have to put up with racial harassment as well?!  No bloody way.  The next time any so-called police officer stops me, he better have a damn good reason for doing so.  I had to put up with this from juvenile gangsters when i was younger, and now from equally young juvenile police officers.  What is it?  They giving uniforms to gangsters these days? Why is it that these o-level boys are given the power to use their uniforms to harass people whom are different, ethnic minorities, or just as an effort to show the public ‘who’s boss’?”

The point is this, if there are parallels to this behaviour in the social arena, then, whilst the police might stop the chinese or ‘normal’ people every now and then, when it comes to minorities, and especially those who stand out, they get stopped ALL the time.  This, in effect, makes their normal checks a cover for their prejudicial ones. That is nothing short of racial harassment.  By parallels in the social arena, i refer to similar aversion to difference, and favouring the conventional - from race to fashion.  This is already evident in the media, job advertisements, government policies, the socio-economic arena, and so on and so forth.  Amongst the juveniles, we see people ‘finding trouble’ with the outstanding.  So when we see the police behaving in a similar fashion, it stands to reason that this social approach to difference would be evident in their checks on the people as well.  

And this becomes all the more the case when it comes to  lesser educated junior police officers - objectivity, unfortunately, is a skill that generally comes with higher education, and through particular subjects.  It is not gained by youthful experience in a state where coffeeshops play chinese programmes all the time, where mandarin-speakers are preferred, and where the government clearly state that the state should have a racial balance in favour of one race over all others.  In such a state, people become consequences of such a state of affairs with minorities doing unto each other that which is done unto them from up high.

Police officers should abide by the principles used to dictate the behaviour of children in the past..they should be seen, not heard.Police officers should abide by the principles used to dictate the behaviour of children in the past - they should be seen, not heard.  Their presence itself, which is a good thing, should be enough to deter criminal behaviour.  Stopping members of the public serves absolutely no purpose other than, as stated, to show them who’s boss, or to effect their own prejudices.  Asking people where they are going is another instance of harassment as the police officers are certainly not going to be going with the bloke they’re ‘spot-checking’ to see if he’s going where he says he’s going.  And if they were to do so, he would probably go where he stated he’s going just to prove he isn’t lying.  They also shouldn’t be stopping people who look different....unless they are being paid an allowance for serving as fashion police as well. Having been a senior probation officer myself, i can certainly see the parallels between the juvenile delinquents under my care and police officers who stop me or my other friends.

Like I said to V, me and some of my other Indian friends whom have been stopped do dress differently.   But you won’t find any Indian gangster dressed like us.  Even they look at us and don’t seem too thrilled that we are as outstanding as we are and hence, seem to be in competition with them for public prominence.  So when the police stop us, they know this as well.  I’d put it down to a situation not dissimilar to that of the Afro-Americans and Latinos in their ‘Zoot suits’ back in the 60s and before that.  As so-called 2nd class citizens, they are expected to be keep in their less prominent place, and not stand out, or risk harassment by the police.  Even members of their own race might harass them to make up for their own feelings of inferiority relative to the dominant race.  The same thing is going on here in singapore, with harassment of minorities by the police of other  and their own races.  It is corollary of racism-cum-aversion to difference culture of the state.

Any ‘spot-check’ can be subject to allegations of racist intent, or a gangster-like aversion amongst police officers to other’s being confident and individualistically-attired.   After all, even in the working and social arena, such people are deemed to be ‘arrogant’.  And the chinese do have a saying that goes, ‘if a nail sticks out, bang it in’.  It is, hence, not surprising that it an ultra-conformist orwellian-like confucian state, difference if going to be battered down, cast aside, ignored, passed over for job opportunities and promotions, and harassed at all levels of society.  In the absence of any valid reason, the claim that it is, ‘just a routine check sir’, can serve as carte blanche to all police officers to effect their own prejudicial agenda.  In a racially self-absorbed, xenophobic, state like singapore, that allegation becomes all the more plausible.  And given the host of stories i’ve heard from my other indians friends, it becomes plausible to the point of certainty. 

When i asked V why she wouldn’t mind relocating back to singapore and asia for work, she said,

“I can have opportunities which you can’t have, i don’t have to be checked by the police because i’m not different and i’m not Indian......so i understand why you hate this country and want to stay in the UK....because you are respected there for what you are, but harassed here by these people for not being chinese....”



  1. It is clearly discrimination against you at the airport! At a start, that police officer should have behaved in a more well-mannered way. I saw his mannerism towards you and I don’t appreciate the tone he on you. Why should you have to subject yourself to such treatment? What crime have you committed? for being Indian? for looking confident (which is always deemed as arrogant by others)? for having a fashion sense? They saw us together at the baggage claim area. If they did suspect any foul play, they should have stopped me as well. Why were you being singled out? Even my mum also said ‘maybe they don’t like Ed being too different from other people and he is also Indian’. The discrimination is too blatant! As you have correctly pointed out, in a state where one race is favoured over all others, ‘minorities doing unto each other that which is done unto them from up high.’

    That’s one of the reasons why I would advise you to stay in the UK. Why would you want to leave the UK when you are respected there, where your so-called ‘too different’ by the locals here is appreciated by the Brits and your intelligence and creativity are impressed by the Brits.

  2.  Well, V, it is a good thing you were there to see the goings-on.  Unfortunately, too few are paying attention to such things, and they happily celebrate their CNY and Chingay completely unbothered how these, amongst other instances, combine to effect pressures on all whom are different to conform. 

    And i'm not suprised that the prominent blog aggregators in singapore are not linking this article either.  I suppose, as that confucian idiot, Ng Ee-Jay, once said in an article, the reason they are not focusing so much on such things is to maintain unity amongst singaporeans.  So racism is swept under the carpet most times so that the disadvantaged can learn to shrug it off and get along with everyone.  A pretty twisted logic isn't it.  Unity should be based on equality, not the disadvantaged being used to discrimination.  With such an opposition, it's no wonder that things are as they are. 

    Your mom, even being relatively less educated, is smart enough to recognise this incident for what it is - racially motivated harassment.  Not bad.  Too bad there aren't enough people like your mom around;)

    Yes.  The UK certainly beckons.  I'll have to think about it though.  Don't like the fact that i'll have to leave my parents behind to escape chinese apathy and small-mindedness.....now further bolstered by racist police harassment.  In the past, in my teens, it was mainly the chinese police.  Now, the indian and malay police are doing it as well.  Another acquaintance of mine, by the name of Charles, (i told you about it) also got similar treatment when he was walking with his chinese wife out of the transit hall.  He got it from an Indian police officer.  And, thankfully, he told them off. 

    This police harassment of male minorities and minorities who stand out MUST stop.  They are demonising minorities and difference in the public eye.  After all, we can't all be expected to don the regulation (chinese-style) bermudas and polo-Ts can we. 

  3.  Hi Mark,

    Well, the police here don't seem to have common sense - that is not an insult, it is a logical summation given the following facts....  I get looks from customs officers and police in the UK as well, and even in HK.  But they have the common sense to realise that if someone wanted to smuggle something through customs, they wouldn't be attracting attention to themselves via their outstanding style.   And in the UK, as V herself has stated to me now and then, their looks are always of curiosity.  But the looks of the police in the face of someone like myself here, or some of my other 'outstanding' friends, are similar to the looks of gangsters when they feel that they are having their limelight stolen. 

    There was another incident a few years back in Hougang when i was stopped by a malay and chinese plainsclothes officers.  The malay officer was polite and he seemed almost apologetic, but the chinese bloke stood behind him and stared at me as if he wanted to have a fight with me.  No different from gangsters.  And i realised that it was probably him whom had told the malay officer to 'spot-check' me.  Another simply-dressed indian friend of mine was treated in a similar way whilst waiting for bus where he was surrounded by a few plainsclothes policemen in broad daylight and spoken to very roughly.  Another, whilst walking with his pregnant wife - also in hougang - was treated in a similar manner.  But they backed off when he threatened to report them, and when he mentioned that his father was a retired staff-sergeant in the police.  I have heard many similar stories.  And i have to say that all of my indian friends, of various educational levels and dress styles have been subjected to such public humiliation and harassment, but only a few of my chinese friends have suffered similarly.

    Given that, from my youth, juvenile delinquents have always found fault with those whom are outstandingly different, and that the chinese in general are averse to difference, and the government have favoured racial similarity, it is no wonder that the police are behaving in a similar fashion.  And this is further reinforced by the young age and lesser education of these police officers - it wouldn't matter to them that with my qualifications i could be an ASP.  As i do get looks from their delinquent counterparts, i'm not surprised that those of a similar age in uniforms are behaving in a similar fashion.  If one was to think about it, this is one of the pressures to conform - either to gang codes, or the codes of the majority.  Certainly a fascist state of affairs in this country.

    V said that the police are going to win either way.  They provoke you with such harassment, and then they might arrest you if you tell them off for harassing you.  Unacceptable.

    Yes.  I empathise with you on your sentiments regarding the 'native borns'.  You better keep your ire under control though, or you're going to spoil your chances for employment/promotion/etc, unless you're planning to leave the country.  Your angst, intelligence, and relatively superior humane nature is going to show on your face, and they aren't going to like it.  I can understand your getting pissed off though, about these people rushing into trains, etc.  I've told of a few of them myself.  'First world modern state' indeed.

  4. Melanie Teh Koon SiaSunday, February 05, 2012

    You probably deserve it. We all know your cheebai attitude. I once came here a few years ago and I saw it myself, how you treated Darkness. Suck it in and I hope it happens every single time you go through changi.

  5. Thanks for the comedy moment.  Too bad you can't appreciate the contradiction in your statement, or you might laugh along too. 

    Ah man.  Keyboard warriors.  Hiding behind anonymity to spew that which their non-anonymous selves would be embarrassed to do so.  Shows that you realise what you're doing isn't really laudable.

  6. I think there are slight glitches with regards to the paragraphing. I indicated the starting of new paragraph with // in case there is a problem with separating paragraphs, which is really the case. I suspect that the web browser, Google Chrome, might be the cause. Will have to use a different web browser, either Mozilla Firefox or Internet Explorer to post subsequent comments to see if the problem persists. Sorry for the inconvenience.

  7. Hey thanks for your suggestion. I tried to use Mozilla Firefox to post the comment for a few times, but to no avail, it wasn't posted at all. So I used Internet Explorer, which normally works better than Google Chrome in disqus system, but all it turned out was a huge chunk of comment. So I reposted the comment with a // to denote a start of a new paragraph so that it'd be easier for you to edit. Sorry once again for the inconvenience.

  8.  Hi Mark,  I just paragraphed the above, and what seems to be a most interesting comment.  I don't have time to read it as it's about time i went for a shower and split to the airport.  I'll read it in on Sunday...or monday. 

    Really nice to know that there's an empathetic Chinese about like yourself.  All i need is about 5 more like yourself, and my animosity will disappear.  I don't like carrying the weight of being pissed off with people around me about with me;) 

    Talk to you soon bro:)

  9. "when the chinese get racist, it is for a different reason. They, being used to being the 'preferred', do not like it when those whom are cast as inferior outshine them." ... "It is not that the behaviour of some indians are unacceptable. It is a matter of indians, being deemed to be inferior, not being allowed to be outstanding. If a white man was to behave in such a manner, or even a chinese, it would be ok. "

    ahahaha! classic! i'm going to use your words above as my email signature.

    007 a.k.a. John

  10. If you lack the intelligence or common sense to focus on the contents of the post, suggest you keep your juvenile behaviour to yourself.

  11. by the way, i'm "joe", not "john". my mistake.

  12. whoever this person is, he/she has a state of mental hygiene that is beyond imagination... typical disgusting trait of local ethnic hans, always using that foul word in conversation, because that's all they think about all day long. ahahaha!

  13. I'm not sure where you're getting your info, but great topic. I needs to spend some time learning more or understanding more. Thanks for great information I was looking for this info for my mission. outlook login


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