Authorities in Singapore detained an impersonator of North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un on Friday, questioning him about his political views to prevent any protest, according to reports.
The Australian man, who goes by the alias Howard X, said in an interview with Reuters that he was detained for around 30 minutes by local police at Singapore’s Changi airport ahead of a historic meeting between Kim and President Donald Trump next week.
“[They] asked me what my political views were and if I have been involved with protests in other countries,” he explained.
“They said: ‘It’s the Trump-Kim summit, you’ve come at a very sensitive time,’” he continued, adding authorities told him to keep away from Sentosa island and the Shangri-La hotel where the meeting is taking place.
Howard X was in Singapore last month where he posed as Kim Jong-un against a backdrop of the city’s bay area, adding that he is now planning similar spoofs in the run-up to the summit, which will include working with Donald Trump impersonator Dennis Alan.
He insists his stunts are not an act of political protest.
“I guess after analysing the situation they decided it was better for me to come into the country than actually deporting me,” he later wrote on Facebook. “After all, if they had deported me the headline in the newspapers all around the world would have been ‘Kim Jong Un deported from Singapore’, which I’m sure is something that the Singaporean government would not want in the papers.”
“Anyway, I am here now so be prepared for some fun during this historical moment in the finest dictatorship in the world,” he continued.
The incident raises further questions about Singapore’s tolerance of free expression. Human rights advocacy groups have criticized the government for tightening laws surrounding peaceful protest. Such restrictions are explained by Human Rights Watch:
Singapore’s draconian restrictions on public assemblies tightened during 2017, with new limitations on the ability of foreigners in the country to organize, participate in, or even financially support, public gatherings.
Event organizers and sometimes participants are subjected to investigations, home searches, and seizure of electronic devices. Critics of the judiciary continue to be targeted for “scandalizing the judiciary.” The government lashed out at online media during the year, and threatened to pass new laws to deal with “misinformation” and “fake news.”
Singapore’s hosting of the summit between Trump and Kim Jong-un is a major boost for the small island country, with the eyes of the world’s media likely to be focused on a meeting that could help secure world peace.