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PH Exclusive: Tan Wah Piow – Exile with a cause

By Biddy Low Who is Tan Wah Piow? His is a name riddled with such fearful labels by our state’s government and media – exile, rioter; “Marxist Mastermind.” Yet as I sat with him in our video interview, I perceived none of the shadowy demeanour one might expect from a man of his reputation. Instead, he displayed a candour befitting of a free and fearless spirit. In 1976, Wah Piow, then a young man of 24, escaped to the UK and sought asylum from what he believed was a precarious situation. He had just been released from prison after an 8-month long term. The charges of rioting and illegal assembly were the result of a “frame-up”, he claimed, a plan adopted by the government to make an example of him and subvert a growing interest in social causes among the student body at the university. “We were supposed to be grateful for the economic success, not do the unthinkable,” he explains in our video interview below. The “unthinkable” in this case was criticizing the ruling party for its past wrongs and stepping in to help with social issues, such as workers’ disputes, something which he felt the union was not…