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Former Malaysian national swimmer jailed 8 weeks for defaulting on S’pore NS to attend US university

SINGAPORE — Former Malaysian national swimmer Lim Ching Hwang was jailed eight weeks in a Singapore district court on Tuesday (Feb 9) for defaulting on his National Service (NS) obligations here.

Malaysian national swimmer Lim Ching Hwang is now saying that he wishes to swim competitively for Singapore.

Malaysian national swimmer Lim Ching Hwang is now saying that he wishes to swim competitively for Singapore.

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  • Lim Ching Hwang, 24, evaded his National Service obligations for nearly three years
  • He eventually enlisted in 2019 and completed his service last month
  • He was part of the Malaysian national swim team but now intends to swim competitively for Singapore


SINGAPORE — Former Malaysian national swimmer Lim Ching Hwang was jailed eight weeks in a Singapore district court on Tuesday (Feb 9) for defaulting on his National Service (NS) obligations here.

The 2013 Asian Youth Games gold medallist was granted Singapore permanent residency in 2014 under the Foreign Sports Talent Scheme.

He turned 18 years old that year but instead of serving NS, left Singapore on a scholarship to study at a university in the United States.

Lim, once regarded as a rising star in the Malaysian swimming scene, evaded his NS obligations here for nearly three years, before returning to Singapore in 2018 to serve his conscription.

In response to a query from TODAY, the Malaysian Swimming Federation said that he is no longer a national swimmer for the country.

The 24-year-old Malaysian pleaded guilty to two charges under the Enlistment Act, with another taken into consideration during sentencing.

The conviction makes Lim the 17th defaulter to be jailed since the High Court set out a new sentencing framework in 2017 for those who evade NS.

Addressing the judge from the dock, Lim said that he was glad to have been able to complete his service.

“I’m deeply regretful of my actions. I committed them as a boy and now that I am more mature, I have come back to face the consequences as a man.” 

The swimmer, who in 2016 broke his own national record for the men’s 200m individual medley at the Malaysia Games, said that he now has a girlfriend and a promising job lined up for him in Singapore.

He also intends to swim competitively for Singapore.

“I was too focused on swimming and couldn’t resist the temptation of a Malaysian scholarship to study at a prestigious university,” he said, adding that he intends to apply for citizenship in Singapore in the near future.


Lim came to Singapore in 2010 and studied at the Singapore Sports School until 2013 under the Government’s Foreign Sports Scholarship Scheme.

In May 2014, after becoming a permanent resident here, he received a notice to register for NS around the same time that a Malaysian conglomerate, Sime Darby, offered him a scholarship to pursue university studies in the US.

He registered for NS two days before the deadline, on May 29, and was granted a deferment to pursue a diploma at Republic Polytechnic.

Choosing instead to take up the scholarship, he left Singapore on July 17 and started on a business degree course at the Ohio State University.

Lim and his parents sought an NS deferment to attend university but was rejected as the Ministry of Defence does not typically grant deferment for university studies, Deputy Public Prosecutor (DPP) R Arvindren said.

His parents also failed to put up a bond in order to get an exit permit for Lim to leave Singapore.

In February 2015, the authorities told Lim’s father that Lim had to undergo medical screening for his enlistment but his father replied that Lim would be renouncing his status as a permanent resident since his deferment for university was not granted.


Lim eventually returned to Singapore in June that year for medical screening as he was worried that he would not be allowed to take part in the 2015 Southeast Asian Games (SEA) here.

He later competed at the games under the Malaysian flag, but left Singapore shortly afterwards to return to the US and continued, unsuccessfully, to apply for deferment.

Lim was notified in August to report for enlistment on Nov 11 that year but he told the authorities that he wanted to renounce his status as a permanent resident.

A police gazette was issued against him after he failed to turn up for enlistment.

On June 11, 2018, Lim finally returned to Singapore after completing university.

“He said that he wanted to resolve his NS offences because he intended to swim competitively in Singapore and pursue a career in Singapore in the future,” DPP Arvindren said.

Lim enlisted on April 3 in 2019 and completed his NS on Feb 2 this year.


In court on Tuesday, DPP Arvindren noted the unfair advantage that NS defaulters have over their law-abiding peers, even if they complete their service eventually.

Lim, who as recently as 2017 swam for the Malaysian team in the SEA games, said that he was glad the case has finally come to an end after the mental stress it has caused him.

He added that with hindsight, he should have nudged his parents more to sort out his exit permits instead of listening to their ill-judged advice to finish his studies before serving NS.

From the dock, he sought to urge young men in Singapore to look forward to NS and to serve it diligently given its importance to the country’s security.

“I want to tell all boys that it is beneficial to serve NS before finishing university as the leadership skills that young men are exposed to is nothing a university can teach.”

Lim will begin serving his sentence from Feb 23.

For leaving Singapore without an exit permit under the Enlistment Act, he could have been jailed for up to three years or fined up to S$10,000, or punished with both.

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