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The Straits Times
August 7, 2023
A man who racially insulted a stranger and kicked her in the chest in May 2021 was given three months’ jail on Monday, after a district judge stressed that racial and religious hostility can have dire consequences in Singapore society.
Wong Xing Fong, 32, attacked Madam Hindocha Nita Vishnubhai near Northvale condominium in Choa Chu Kang on May 7, 2021, amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
He was also ordered to pay the victim $13.20 as compensation.
Before handing down the sentence on Monday, District Judge Shaiffudin Saruwan said that a deterrent sentence is paramount in this case.
He also noted that Wong committed the offences in a brazen manner and had displayed a lack of remorse.
After a nine-day trial which started in January, Judge Shaiffudin convicted Wong in June of one count each of assault and wounding the victim’s racial feelings. During the trial, Wong denied using racial insults.
The prosecution had asked for a sentence of between six and nine months’ jail, stressing the importance of community and racial harmony.
Madam Nita, 57, testified on the first day of the trial that on May 7, 2021, she was brisk walking to Choa Chu Kang Stadium, where she worked at a fast-food restaurant, when she heard someone shouting.
She turned and saw Wong and his fiancee Chua Yun Han, whom she did not know. The couple told her to “mask up”, as her mask had been pulled down.
Deputy Public Prosecutors Marcus Foo and Jonathan Lee said in their submissions that Madam Nita explained to the couple that she was brisk walking, and gestured to show she was exercising and sweating.
At the time, people were allowed to remove their masks when engaging in strenuous exercise, but had to put them back on after exercise.
Sport Singapore had defined “strenuous exercise” as running, jogging, cycling, static exercises and drills for warm-ups, brisk walking, and walking on hilly terrain such as at Bukit Timah Nature Reserve.
The prosecution said: “The accused instead scolded the complainant (and verbally insulted her). To de-escalate the matter, the complainant responded: ‘God bless you.’
“The accused, however, kicked the complainant in her chest area. He and (his fiancee) then jogged off.”
Madam Nita also testified in January that she would cry if she returned to the site of the attack.
Her voice cracked at the time as she told the judge: “(The incident) affects me emotionally... I feel sad and scared. Is it wrong to be Indian? I didn’t choose to be Indian... I wish this didn’t happen.
“Till today, you (take) me to that road, I will cry. I was very scared.”
During earlier proceedings, she also testified that an eyewitness helped her to her feet after the attack and applied a plaster to a wound on her left forearm.
She made a police report that evening.
The prosecution said the eyewitness, who was unrelated to either party, testified that she saw a man kicking Madam Nita.
During the trial, Wong claimed that the victim was sarcastic and aggressive, and had hurled vulgarities at him.
He also claimed she spat at him and Ms Chua, and he reacted by pushing her.
While he accepted that he had used vulgarities, he denied they were racial insults.
For assaulting another person in a racially aggravated attack, an offender can be jailed for up to four years and six months, and fined up to $7,500.