Under the Undesirable Publications Ordinance, the Governor in Council may, by order published in the Gazette, prohibit the importation, sale or circulation of any publication.
To decisively curb the influx of imported Communist publications from Hong Kong and China, the British colonial government amended the Ordinance on 17 October 1958 to allow for the blanket prohibition of all publications published by any publishing house. However, provisions were made to exempt unobjectionable publications from prohibition .
On 22 October 1958, the British colonial government exercised the amendment by prohibiting the publications of 53 publishing houses in Hong Kong and China from being imported, sold and circulated in Singapore .
Exemptions for unobjectionable publications (e.g. medical, scientific, educational and technical publications) from these publishing houses were progressively given from October 1958 to July 1959, and the public was notified of these exemptions in the Gazette .
The blanket prohibition imposed on 22 October 1958 to disallow the importation, sale or circulation of publications from the 53 publishing houses in Hong Kong and China (see AP 171/ CSO 00296-58 Temp) badly affected the business of local importers and booksellers.
On behalf of those affected, Mr. Lim Cher Kheng, a member of the Liberal Socialist Party, raised a question for oral answer in the Legislative Assembly sitting of 3 December 1958 on the progress made in the exemption of unobjectionable publications .
Stamps from Communist countries did not escape the watchful eyes of media regulators. Being classified under "publications", they could be regulated under the Undesirable Publications Ordinance.
A stamp collector also found this out unwittingly when he learnt that the "New China" stamps he was supposed to have received from China in a stamp exchange had been detained by the Singapore authorities under the Undesirable Publications Ordinance. However, the British colonial government was kind enough to release his detained New China stamps so that he might send them back to the China collector in return for his own Malayan stamps.
China-related media content was often treated warily by media regulators because of its appeal to the Chinese ground. The Italian film, "The Chinese Wall", was a case in point. It raised the antenna of media regulators because of the publicity generated by its distributor, Shaw Brothers Ltd . The film received mixed reviews. While some saw it as Communist propaganda, others felt it was nothing more than a travelogue with good photography.
The song books of Chinese dialect groups were also exploited for Communist propaganda. One Teochew song was about an old fisherman and his daughter who "sing about the happy life of fishermen after the (Communist) liberation and about the beautiful and expansive seas of the motherland" .
Media regulators said the song was aimed at winning popular support by portraying the happiness of the people as a result of their economic advancement under Communist rule.
Communist propaganda also found their way into athletics, sports and games. The book, "Football in the USSR", propagated the Communist cause through commentaries and slogans emphasising the greatness of Communist countries, including sports. An extract from the file reflects the concern of the media regulators. ---"It deals substantially with the growth of the Russian prowess in the game, but interspersed between paragraphs are passages which have nothing to do with football but are inserted to eulogize the United (sic) Soviet Socialist Republic (sic) and the Communist Party of U.S.S.R.'
Children's songs were also not spared by the Communist propagandists. This file reveals that a popular children song "Little Bell" in a gramophone record was detained because of some objectionable lyrics . Media regulators were of the view that the gramophone record "can be replayed in any place for any number of times once released for sale and circulation" .