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Activist Alex Au first S'porean to win Franco-German human rights prize for work with LGBT community, migrant workers

SINGAPORE — Local activist Alex Au on Friday (Jan 13) received a European prize for human rights, which was also given to 14 other awardees around the world for 2022.

Mr Alex Au receiving the Franco-German Human Rights and Rule of Law Prize from Germany's ambassador to Singapore Dr Norbert Riedel (left), and France's ambassador to Singapore, Ms Minh-di Tang on Jan 13, 2023.

Mr Alex Au receiving the Franco-German Human Rights and Rule of Law Prize from Germany's ambassador to Singapore Dr Norbert Riedel (left), and France's ambassador to Singapore, Ms Minh-di Tang on Jan 13, 2023.

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SINGAPORE — Local activist Alex Au on Friday (Jan 13) received a European prize for human rights, which was also given to 14 other awardees around the world for 2022.

These include the women of Iran along with Mahsa Amini, whose death in the custody of Iran's morality police led to a widespread show of defiance by women there.

Mr Au is an activist for the rights of migrant workers and the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community here, and is the first Singaporean to receive the Franco-German Prize for Human Rights and the Rule of Law.

The prize was established in 2016 by the foreign ministries of France and Germany.

Mr Au, 70, is the vice president of migrant workers' rights group Transient Workers Count Too (TWC2).

Other recipients of the 2022 prize include indigenous rights activist Patricia Gualinga Montalvo from Ecuador and Syrian Centre for Media and Freedom of Expression founder Mazen Darwish.

In a joint press release, the embassies of France and Germany here said the prize is to recognise Mr Au’s “long-term and dedicated civil society engagement in Singapore”.

“Besides having spent years in activism for the rights of LGBT minorities, Alex Au has dedicated more than 10 years to improving migrant workers’ situation in Singapore,” they said, noting TWC2’s contributions to raise standards at foreign worker dormitories during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The two embassies added that Mr Au’s “prominence and connections as a socio-political commentator and an advocate for inclusivity and equal rights have seen his views sought by local members of the political and civil society arenas”.

“France and Germany are committed to the promotion of human rights in the world and are honoured to celebrate together, through this award, individuals such as Mr Alex Au who use their time and talent indefatigably in the service of others.”

Mr Au told TODAY that he was surprised when he learnt he was to be awarded the prize a few days before Humans Rights Day last year, which is celebrated on Dec 10. The prize is subsequently presented to the recipients.

“I’m very humbled by (the award). Importantly, it is not something for me alone. It is recognition for the much larger LGBT rights movement and migrant workers' rights movement,” he said.

I’m very humbled by (the award). Importantly, it is not something for me alone. It is recognition for the much larger LGBT rights movement and migrant workers' rights movement.
Mr Alex Au, activist for the rights of migrant workers and the LGBT community

“Because in this area of work, there is no single person, certainly not me, who does everything. It’s been a collective effort.”

However, Mr Au admitted that in some ways he was intrigued as to why he was awarded the prize. “There are people all over the world who have had a much harder time fighting for their basic freedoms and rights in their country,” he said.

Nonetheless, he hopes this award will serve as encouragement for activists in Singapore, especially those from the younger generation, to carry on their fight.

“(Human rights) is a never ending matter because we never reach a point of perfection — no country ever does. Therefore, it's work that will forever continue,” he said.

Noting that human rights is a sensitive subject in Singapore, he added: “Let's not be afraid of the term human rights. This term simply embodies basic concepts we all agree on, such as respect for others, inclusiveness and sense fairness for all.”

Related topics

Migrant Workers Human Rights LGBT

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