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K Shanmugam: ‘Politically Significant’ FICA designation must serves public interest

Home Minister K Shanmugam emphasizes that designating a “politically significant person” (PSP) under FICA requires a determination in the public interest. He also mentions MHA’s discussions with Mr Philip Chan Man Ping, the first designated PSP under FICA.

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SINGAPORE: Home Affairs and Law Minister K Shanmugam clarified that when designating someone as a “politically significant person” (PSP) under the Foreign Interference (Countermeasures) Act (FICA), authorities must determine that it serves the public interest.

“You could be a member of a foreign political organisation, but if the public interest criterion is not satisfied, you would not be designated,” he told the House on Thursday (29 February) during the debate on the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) budget.

Additionally, the minister disclosed “some discussions” with Mr Philip Chan Man Ping, a Singaporean businessman designated as the first PSP under the FICA on Monday.

Minister Shanmugam revealed that Mr Chan was “advised” of the government’s concerns and subsequently designated under FICA based on an assessment by the Registrar of Foreign and Political Disclosures.

He was responding to a query by Mr Gerald Giam, Workers’ Party MP for Aljunied GRC regarding the designation of PSPs under FICA.

Mr Giam sought further clarification on MHA’s criteria for designating PSPs and the differentiation between Mr Chan and others engaged in similar activities but not designated under FICA.

“I understand the ministry might be reluctant to be too transparent about the criteria to prevent people from circumventing the FICA provisions.

“However, MHA should provide better guidance to the public on where the out-of-bound (OB) markers are, so that they can avoid becoming unwitting agents of foreign influence and interference.”

Criteria for designating a PSP under FICA

Mr Shanmugam, in response, highlighted the criteria outlined in FICA for designating a PSP.

“Under the FICA, the criteria is set out in the act the individual must be a member of a foreign legislature, or foreign political organization or the individual’s activities must be directed towards a political end in Singapore”

“But in addition to this, there is also the public interest criteria that must be satisfied,” Mr Shanmugam added.

During the 2021 parliamentary debate on the FICA Bill, Mr Shanmugam emphasized that the definition of public interest incorporates the requirement of proportionality.

The minister or authority is obligated to consider this principle when making a decision, ensuring that it is both necessary and expedient.

Mr Shanmugam, speaking on Thursday, stated that the registrar will evaluate relevant facts in determining whether to designate someone as a PSP.

This assessment typically encompasses an individual’s past actions in Singapore, statements, conduct, reach, influence, and the likelihood of becoming a target for foreign interference or influence.

“That would include an assessment of the extent to which he has linkage with the other country. These would be among the criteria – I’m not setting this out as exhaustive.”

Mr Shanmugam said that when appropriate, the authorities will also have discussions with the individual and see whether there is a need to designate them under FICA.

Shanmugam reveals MHA “discussions” with Philip Chan before PSP designation

Additionally, Mr Shanmugam mentioned that, when appropriate, authorities will engage in discussions with the individual to assess the necessity of designating them under FICA.

“But I can disclose that we did have some discussions with the individual. He was advised about our concerns. ”

“Thereafter, based on the registrar’s assessment, the registrar has decided to designate him,” he added.

“If he appeals, I will have to look at the facts and make a decision.”

Mr. Shanmugam reiterated that being designated as a PSP confers the same status as MPs, who are automatically PSPs.

He emphasized that the designated individual is obligated to adhere to the transparency requirements outlined in FICA.

“Not that he has actively done some wrong per se, at that point of designation, just that we have assessed him to be at a higher risk of being susceptible to influence by foreign actors, and we have imposed on him the requirements for transparency,” he said.

When Mr Giam inquired whether the government would publicly disclose every PSP designation, Mr Shanmugam responded that he didn’t want to restrict the hands of a future government.

However, he assured that such designations would be publicly announced “where necessary.”

“We think it makes sense to announce it so that Singaporeans are aware and hopefully, that will also shape some behaviour.”

Regarding whether members of foreign bodies need to declare their status to MHA on every occasion, Mr Shanmugam clarified that such declarations do not automatically lead to a PSP designation.

Nevertheless, he emphasized that Thursday is the deadline for these declarations.

Mr Chan reportedly immigrated from Hong Kong in 1990

Earlier, in a written reply to a parliamentary question filed by Mr Leong Mun Wai, Non-constituency Member of Parliament from the Progress Singapore Party (PSP), Minister Shanmugam emphasized that Singapore Citizens (SCs) must declare their membership in foreign legislatures and political organizations to the Registry of Foreign and Political Disclosures under section 79 of FICA.

SCs who were involved in such bodies before 1 February 2024 are required to declare their participation under FICA by Friday (1 March).

Minister Shanmugam added that SCs joining such bodies after 1 February 2024, need to declare their involvement within one month of joining.

Mr Chan, a Hong Kong-born Singaporean who serves as the managing director of various real estate investment firms, received a notice on 2 February outlining the intention to designate him as a PSP.

According to an earlier media report, Mr Chan immigrated from Hong Kong to Singapore in 1990 and has been actively involved in various other organizations.

Following MHA’s earlier notice to state its intention to designate him as a ‘politically significant person’, Mr Chan has resigned from his role as president of the Hong Kong Singapore Business Association (HSBA).

The People’s Association revealed on 2 February that Mr Chan has stepped down from all grassroots appointments, including as a patron of the Kampong Chai Chee Citizens’ Consultative Committee and the Bukit Timah Community Club management committee.

While the PA did not respond to queries regarding Mr Chan’s influence on grassroots activities during his appointments, it was noted that he had held these positions since 2014, as indicated on the SPD charity’s website.

As a prominent figure in business, Mr Chan holds managing director positions at several companies, including Wen Way Investments Pte Ltd, and has been instrumental in property investments across multiple countries.

His contributions to the business community and charitable causes, particularly among the Hong Kong immigrant community in Singapore, have been noteworthy.

In a March 2023 article on the Chinese news website 52hrtt (华人头条), Mr Chan was identified as an overseas representative at the National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party.

During an interview with the website, Mr Chan said, “It is our duty as overseas Chinese to tell China’s story well, and to both spread and pass on the marvelous traditional Chinese culture while we are abroad.”

“As a member of the Chinese Singaporean community, I have had my articles published in Lianhe Zaobao, a mainstream Chinese media in Singapore. However, my influence is limited. Since we can only do little alone, we therefore need to be more united.”

First PSP declared under FICA’s new provision enforced since December 2023

Mr Chan stands to be the first individual categorized under this provision since FICA’s enforcement in December of the previous year.

FICA’s mandate is to combat hostile information campaigns and the influence of foreign proxies in domestic politics.

This designation, applicable to a range of entities, including political office holders and Members of Parliament, is based on Mr Chan’s activities directed toward a political end.

Under FICA, a person who is designated as PSP will be prohibited from accepting voluntary labour or professional services from non-Singaporean citizens.

Additionally, they are required to disclose any affiliations with a “foreign principal,” which includes foreign governments, government-related individuals, foreign political organizations, foreign public enterprises, or foreign businesses.

Furthermore, they are barred from receiving anonymous donations exceeding S$5,000 within a calendar year and must report donations of S$10,000 or more from permissible donors.

These transparency measures are designed to thwart foreign interference in Singapore’s political sphere.

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Public interest? Your boss wife the salary is state secret and not public interest? KNN you ah neh.

What is public interest? It’s anything the pap calls it. Suka suka you can say anything is public interest. Yet, the irony: is the B$$$&$$$W public interest or your own pubic interest that some institution under the control of Lee Hsien Loong says you have done no wrong, and the pap can do no wrong? FICA, pofma, etc are all the same sharp tools pap uses to maintain hegemony. Period.

Our founding fathers put all regulations and rules to block of the possibility of infiltration by foreigners. They were not paid a million dollars. Today our borders are open to every Tom, Dick, Chan, Muthu etc. Our gates are fully opened. What is the point of FICA when the infiltration has been happening for the past two and a half decades? Increased money laundering, increased drug offenders, increased armed dealers and you catch only one? You are a failure as Law and home Minister. The least you can do for the State is resign. How much of time has been… Read more »

To the PAP Administration, any interest to disrupt THEIR HEGEMONY THEIR BRAND OF COMMAND AND CONTROL over Sheeps is bad, to be nipped and eliminated.

Eg. Drug hanging. What sort of national security disruption that leans towards crumbling of SG when Sir Richard Branson spoke on this PAP ADMINISTRATION drastic inhumane punishment?

Theres NO RISKS – only reputation at stake that’s all.

They are just pretending they care

How about the Fujian Gang that invaded Singapore. Based on what and whose interests the PAP Administration invited them to live to work to set up rich man’s offices, treated them lavishly with pomp, pageantry to come here. What sort of interests therein lies? State interests, National interests, PAP interests, Singaporeans interests? If proper screening done – who knows what interference could had been uncovered by GREEDY POLITICIANS. Political liars too wealthy to think of poorer Sheeps – the way Vivian looked down on poor people in SG must have been able to SPARK PAP morals U turn. NO. it… Read more »

Last edited 1 month ago by the trishaw

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