Reawakening Student Activism Cover

Reawakening student activism: a case study of Malaysia and Singapore

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Malaysia and Singapore share a history of suppression of youth activism by the state, and as a result, this has led to the depoliticisation of young people, who are often labelled as apathetic. However, the changing realities of both countries, ­such as the instability of the economy, has led young people to engage more in political discussions in recent years. Additionally, with the help of social media, young Malaysians and Singaporeans are able to build networks and bases, educate others, and organise mobilisations and protests against the state, circumventing laws that might otherwise land them in jail. However, the rise of youth activism also entails rising harassment and state suppression of youth activists through surveillance, arrests and threats to future employability.  This paper looks at the fragile student movements in both countries and how digital media has played an important role in the reawakening of student youth activism in Malaysia and Singapore.

Note: *some names of activists were changed as per their request to protect their identities

This e-paper is part of our dossier "Young voices on the rise – Youth and democracy in the Asia-Pacific region". It first appeared on

Product details
Date of Publication
December 2021
Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung European Union
Number of Pages
Language of publication
Table of contents

1. Introduction
2. Malaysia: Rebuilding youth activism after decades of suppression
3. Singapore: A renaissance of youth activism in a hybrid regime
4. Conclusion and recommendations

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