The offense involved one man, one piece of cardboard and one smiley face.

On Monday, Jolovan Wham, a civil rights activist, was charged at a court in Singapore with illegal public assembly for holding up a cardboard sign with a smiley face on it near a police station in March. It was a protest of one person. He had, he admitted, drawn the smiley face himself.

Averse to potential threats to its stable, orderly state, Singapore is bound by strict rules on civil liberties, such as freedom of speech and assembly. Public protest without a permit is allowed in just one spot in the city-state, and only after completing a registration process. The Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act, which was enacted last year, polices activity online.