Phoon Chiu Yoke withdraws bid to leave for China after arguments about quarantine and visa requirements
SINGAPORE: A woman facing charges for not wearing a mask has withdrawn her request to leave the country for China, after making arguments in court about visa and quarantine requirements.
Phoon Chiu Yoke, 55, had received fresh charges last week for failing to wear a mask on Orchard Road a few weeks before outdoor mask rules were relaxed. She was also given a third charge of failing to turn up for a related investigation.
After the charges were tendered, Phoon returned to court asking for permission to leave Singapore for travel to China via Hong Kong. She told the judge that she did not have to undergo quarantine, and claimed she did not need a visa.
On Monday (Sep 12), two prosecutors objected to Phoon's request, calling her a flight risk. They also said that there are quarantine and visa requirements, despite what Phoon claimed.
Deputy Public Prosecutor Jane Lim said there is "some flight risk involved", as Phoon has no employment in Singapore and no property here.
"She is currently staying in a rented apartment alone," said Ms Lim. "We also note, your honour, that while she has family members in Singapore - her aged parents and brother - she does not stay with them."
She added that there was no emergency and nothing in the application to show that Phoon needs to travel. There are also gaps in the documentation provided, said Ms Lim.
"There does not seem to be any evidence on how she is going to get into China from Hong Kong," said Ms Lim. "Based on searches we have done, there seem to be a need for quarantine orders in both these countries. For China in particular, there needs to be a special pass - the APEC visa, or visit pass - which has not been furnished by the accused."
The judge told Phoon that it is not the duty of the court to ensure that she complies with travel policies or requirements for each country she wishes to travel to.
"But of course, if I do see that there are difficulties in you even being able to enter the country, then the question is whether or not I should even grant the application to begin with," said the judge.
Phoon repeatedly said she had "made the checks" and was not required to quarantine. All she had to do was to provide a negative PCR and COVID-19 test and provide proof of vaccination.
She said there was no documentation for how she was going to leave Hong Kong for China as she intended to book a ferry or take a train, neither of which could be done online.
Phoon stressed that she is not a flight risk, adding that she has a "good standing reputation (as) an ex-military officer".
"While I have family and friends in Singapore, there's no reason for me to leave and not return to Singapore," said Phoon.
The judge stood down the case for her to show proof on the websites she claimed to have checked that she did not require quarantine in China.
When Phoon returned after half an hour, she told the judge that she did not "create this trip" because of her fresh charges or hearing.
"I am not running away from this case," she said, adding that she merely wanted to continue her travel plans as she had already made prior hotel and ticket reservations.
"Mentally I am prepared to go to Xinjiang for leisure and business," said Phoon.
"Now you say it's for business. Perhaps you should show the business itinerary. It's not for me to find out all these for you," said the judge.
Phoon answered: "Every time I travel, it's also to update my photo portal. It's a photo portal I run for myself. In some instances, for charity purposes. You can say it is partially business."
She disagreed with the prosecution that there is a requirement for a visa for travel to China.
After repeated back-and-forth exchanges in this manner, Phoon said she would withdraw her application to leave the country.
She will return to court in October for a pre-trial conference. Asked what she intends to do with the charges, Phoon said she intends to plead guilty and provide a mitigation.