Singapore - A Singapore pro-democracy activist on Tuesday ended a three-day standoff with police who stopped him from marching to the venue of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank meetings.
Chee Soon Juan, 44, vowed to accelerate his fight for more freedom in the city-state and evoked memories of US civil rights campaigner Martin Luther King Jr and India's Mahatma Gandhi.
"The world now knows the extent of the repression in Singapore and hopefully this will translate into pressure on the Singapore government to reform the system," said Chee, secretary-general of the opposition Singapore Democratic Party.
"Over the next few months, we will step up our efforts to raise awareness of the need for democracy in Singapore," he said.
As a large contingent of international journalists watched, police blocked Chee and a handful of supporters on Saturday when they tried to leave a city park that serves as a government-designated free speech area.
About 30 plainclothes and uniformed police were still watching Chee's group Tuesday as a military helicopter conducted surveillance above them before he ended his protest at the edge of the park.
Under Singapore law, any public protest of at least five people without a permit is deemed illegal. Chee's applications for a permit were denied.
He made a final attempt just after midday Tuesday to proceed with his march but was stopped by the same plainclothes policeman who had been Chee's shadow since Saturday.
"I can't let you do that... because that assembly, you do not have a permit for that assembly," said the officer, who gave his name as Hassan.
Chee then made a speech to mark the end of his standoff.
"It may have come to a close but I assure you that our movement, our campaign for democracy, will grow and gain momentum and strength," Chee said as his supporters clapped.
"We will step up our efforts to recruit activists and train them and we will step up our efforts to organise more activities and more public protests in a peaceful manner," he said.
Chee said he will train fellow activists on the "theory and practice of non-violent action" as preached by civil rights campaigners Martin Luther King Jr in the United States, and India's Mahatma Gandhi.
Chee is one of the rare few in Singapore who have spoken out against the People's Action Party which has ruled since 1959.
He was protesting poverty and restrictions on freedom of speech in the city-state, which is one of Asia's wealthiest.
Despite appeals by the World Bank, Singapore refused to waive its long-standing protest restrictions during the meetings.
Police have defended their strict security measures, saying Singapore is a high-profile "terrorist" target.
Chee has served three jail terms -- a total of about two months -- for speaking publicly without a permit.
He and his sister were found by the Supreme Court last week to have defamed the Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and his father Lee Kuan Yew, Singapore's founding father and first prime minister.
The Lees sued Chee for implying that the prime minister was perpetuating a corrupt political system.
Chee was also declared a bankrupt in February for failing to pay 500,000 Singapore dollars (316,455 US dollars) in libel damages to the elder Lee and another former prime minister, Goh Chok Tong, in a separate defamation suit.
Political stability has been the bedrock of the economic success of Singapore. The elder Lee said at a forum on governance Friday that the city-state cannot take the same approach as Western countries. He cited New Zealand and Denmark as examples because these nations have a "different physical, economic and geographical strategic base".
Agence France Presse