Samantha Lo, a Singaporean artist going by the name of SKL0, has been charged with mischief. She faces seven charges that will be determined later in the week. Her accomplice, graffiti artist Anthony Chong, faces three charges, also to be determined.
Lo had been investigated in May 2012 for spray-painting on public roads and pasting stickers on traffic light controller boxes. She could potentially have been charged with vandalism, which carries a heavier sentence. If found guilty of her current charges, both Lo and Chong could be fined and/or serve a jail term of up to two years.
The investigation against Lo had sparked an outcry last year; many felt that the authorities had acted too harshly against what they saw as harmless pranks and artistic expression. The stickers – which said things like “Press Once Can Already” – referred to Singaporean habits and expressions, something that many were able to relate to and found humorous. The action taken against Lo was seen as that of an authoritarian state clamping down on free expression and creativity.
Law Minister K Shanmugam, who is also the MP of Nee Soon where one of them is living, had met the pair and made an appeal on their behalf.
Although they are no longer as harsh as vandalism, Lo’s charges have still been met with criticism from Singaporeans, who feel that she should not have been charged at all. Comparisons have also been made between Lo and Amy Cheong, who had caused a huge controversy last year for making racist comments against Malays on social networks. It was recently reported that Cheong had received a stern warning from the police, leading to say that she had got off even more lightly than an artist who had merely spray-painted a few phrases on roads.
Regardless of what the details of the charges of mischief may turn out to be, Lo is not without her supporters. BooksActually, a local book store, posted a photo of the words “My Grandfather’s Bookstore” stuck on their window; a reference to the words Lo had spray-painted on the road (“My Grandfather Road”), and a show of solidarity.