Singaporean woman filmed making racist remarks on MRT train charged, remanded for psychiatric evaluation

Tan Beow Hiong was captured in a viral video filming other commuters and making racist remarks on an MRT train in April 2021. ― Picture via social media/TODAY
Tan Beow Hiong was captured in a viral video filming other commuters and making racist remarks on an MRT train in April 2021. ― Picture via social media/TODAY

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SINGAPORE, June 18 — A woman captured in a viral video filming other commuters and making racist remarks on an MRT train in April was today (June 18) hauled to court on three criminal charges.

Tan Beow Hiong, 57, was charged with two counts under Section 298A(b) of the Penal Code for committing acts that are prejudicial to the maintenance of harmony between different religious or racial groups and that disturb public tranquility.

Court documents stated that in the video, she had singled out other passengers in the cabin whom she thought were Malay and made derogatory remarks against them, such as “I am not a social worker; I am not doing charity work”.

The Singaporean was also handed one charge of committing public nuisance that caused annoyance to the public.

Based on court documents, on May 11, Tan allegedly spoke loudly on an MRT train, claiming that she was not racist and making statements such as “we are very different” and “I don’t even talk to Chinese rank-and-file like you”.

Tan first made news when a video surfaced on Twitter in April before being removed. It was later reposted on other social media sites. 

It showed her pointing her mobile phone camera at passengers, asking them what their race was.

Among other things, Tan was heard telling a commuter, after asking about her race, that she would “never mix around with you guys because we are so different”.

Today, she told the court that she wanted to apply for a pro bono lawyer from the Criminal Legal Aid Scheme.

District Judge Lorraine Ho agreed with the prosecution’s request to remand her at the Institute of Mental Health for psychiatric evaluation.

She will return to court on July 2.

After the incident made headlines, video-sharing site YouTube terminated a channel that hosted dozens of videos believed to be filmed by Tan. 

The clips were of people seemingly going about their day in public places.

The woman does not say anything in many of the videos and, most of the time, neither do the people being filmed.

But she claims in the captions of the videos that she was being harassed and assaulted.

Court documents stated that Tan maintained the YouTube channel, which had “multiple videos alleging racism or harassment by persons of other races”.

This included a video titled “Malay Man Attempted to Molest Chinese Woman”, in which she allegedly repeatedly insinuated that Malay people should not be touching Chinese people.

Tan was also dismissed from her job as an associate at KF Property Network, a subsidiary of real-estate firm Knight Frank.

KF Property Network had said that it maintained “zero tolerance for hate speech and racism that threatens the foundations on which Singapore is built”.

If convicted of committing acts prejudicial to racial or religious harmony, Tan could face a jail term of up to three years or a fine, or both.

If found guilty of public nuisance that causes annoyance to the public, she could also be jailed for up to three months or fined up to S$2,000, or given both penalties. ― TODAY

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