Wong Yan Ke, a former student activist who went on to work with a prominent human rights organisation, was found guilty under Section 504 of Malaysia’s Penal Code on 9 October, following his actions during the university’s convocation ceremony in October 2019. He was subsequently fined RM5,000 (approx. USD 1,200). The court ordered that he spend 3 months in jail should he fail to pay the fine.
Wong Yan Ke raised a placard and shouted slogans during the ceremony, accusing the Vice Chancellor of the university of making ‘racist’ remarks during the Malay Dignity Congress and calling for the official’s resignation. In response, the university filed a complaint with the police, leading to Yan Ke’s charges being brought on 26 February 2020. Wong Yan Ke currently works as a human rights defender at Suara Rakyat Malaysia (SUARAM), a leading human rights organisation.
“This conviction highlights a worrying trend of suppressing free expression within academic institutions and undermines the right to expression and the right to protest,” said Nalini Elumalai, Senior Malaysia Programme Officer. “It is imperative that universities protect the space for students to voice their opinions without fear of legal repercussions. Instead of engaging in open dialogue and addressing concerns, authorities have resorted to legal action to silence dissent.”
“This case raises serious questions about the state of freedom of expression in Malaysia and the harassment of human rights defenders,” said Nalini. “It is crucial that the charges against Wong Yan Ke be dropped. The government should uphold its commitment to protecting fundamental rights and revisit laws that restrict free speech, including those found in the Penal Code.”
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Nalini Elumalai, Senior Malaysia Programme Officer at ARTICLE 19, firstname.lastname@example.org.