Neo on Free Speech & the Offense of Promoting Hostility Between Different Groups

Jaclyn Ling-chien Neo  (Nat’l U. of Singapore, Faculty of Law) has posted Seditious in Singapore! Free Speech and The Offence of Promoting Ill-Will and Hostility between Different Racial Groups. The abstract follows.

In 2005, the archaic laws of sedition were summoned to counteract speech considered offensive to racial and religious groups in Singapore. Under the Sedition Act, it is seditious, inter alia, to promote feelings of ill-will and hostility between different races or classes of the population. In a later case involving religious proselytization, a Christian couple was charged and convicted of sedition under the same section. This article examines this new phenomenon. It investigates the manner in which these laws have been employed and jurisprudentially developed to restrain speech on race and/or religion in Singapore. The article argues that the current state of the law is highly problematic for its adverse impact on free speech as well as for its conceptual confusions with alternative bases for restraining speech. It contends that failure to extricate the existing conceptual confusions is adverse to free speech and community integration in the long run. A threefold legal framework is proposed to provide clearer guidance on inter-racial and inter-religious interaction within the Singaporean society.


As my colleague Marc pointed out Friday, there are some pretty serious questions about the Administration’s new contraception-coverage mandate. I don’t mean that rhetorically. I mean it’s genuinely unclear what the answers are, even after a weekend in which Administration officials and liberal Catholic commentators like EJ Dionne went on the airwaves to claim that the President had resolved the controversy. Two questions, it seems to me, are crucial:

  • Are insurance companies really going to absorb the costs of employee contraceptives, sterilization, and abortifacients? Some commentators reason that because these services are cheaper for insurance companies than pregnancy care, the companies will be glad to foot the bill. Does that make sense? Have insurance companies made any representations about this? (As of this morning, there was nothing on the website of health insurers’ umbrella organization, “America’s Health Insurance Plans,” or AHIP). Why wouldn’t insurance companies find a way to pass the cost of these services on to the employers who purchase the insurance contracts?
  • What about religious institutions that self-insure? According to the Becket Fund, thousands of such institutions exist.

Until one knows the answer to these questions, it’s hard to see how this “compromise” changes anything in substance about the original mandate.

Eng, Ruskola & Shen on China and the Human

David L. Eng (U. of Penn.), Teemu Ruskola (Emory U. School of Law) Shuang Shen (Penn. State. U.) has posted China and the Human. The abstract follows.

China is everywhere in the news. Most stories seem to fall into one of two categories: accounts of China’s astounding economic development, and reports of equally astonishing human rights abuses in China. Paradoxically, as it turns into a global economic powerhouse, China’s relationship to political freedoms and rights appears to stand in an almost inverse relationship to its economic success. To make sense of the contemporary political moment, this essay examines the politics and histories of China and the human. At the same time, it constitutes a critical introduction to a special double issue of the journal Social Text on the same theme. The special issue, consisting of eleven essays and a visual dossier, considers the problematic conceptual, political, historical, and cultural relationship between Chineseness and humanity. By juxtaposing “China” and “the human” as two discrete categories, this introductory essay does not assume either concept as a pre-given object of knowledge. Rather — together with the other essays in the volume — it examines both China and the human as set of relational, differential, and contrapuntal events, in specific historical and geopolitical contexts.

The introductory essay provides a conceptual and historical map for this inquiry, in a comparative context that examines Euro-American, Chinese, and transnational itineraries of the human and their global crossings. It analyzes China’s potential to undo the universalizing claims of Western idealized norms of the human, while refusing to re-essentialize a Chinese otherness as an alternative perspective. More specifically, the essay interrogates the domination and limitations of the universal human while tracing alternative cosmologies and discourses of Chinese humanism and anti-humanism, informed by Confucianism, Daoism, and Buddhism, as well as other religious and political traditions. It also examines Marxist and Maoist conceptualizations of the human from transnational perspectives, and finally it considers the status of the human in contemporary China, defined increasingly as a bearer of a set of political and legal rights. What humanity means in China today — and in the world — and what it will mean in the future, is part of an ongoing struggle over the meaning of the past and the politics of the present. This essay offers “China” as a methodology in itself, rather than simply an object of inquiry.