Some dissidents and opponents of Lee Kuan Yew believe that, with the death of modern Singapore's iron-handed founding father this week, the political restrictions he imposed in the name of security will begin to ease.
There is little sign of immediate change, however, as Lee's son, who is prime minister, has given no indication he will allow those in self-imposed exile an easy return home.
Tang Fong Har, now living in Hong Kong, who was among 22 people detained in 1987 for allegedly being part of a Marxist plot against the government, said the "litmus test" would be whether Singapore abolished the Internal Security Act, a legacy of British colonial rule.
That allows authorities to detain anyone seen as a threat to security for up to two years.
Teo Soh Lung, a retired lawyer who was among activists arrested in 1987 and 1988 but who remained in Singapore and resumed her legal practice, was not optimistic of rapid change.
"All these people want to return, but I don't think they will be allowed back," she said, citing the legacy of Lee and his longstanding fight against communism.
Lee, credited with propelling tiny Singapore from an economic backwater to a country with one of the world's highest per-capita gross domestic product (GDP), was unapologetic to the end for crushing opponents, saying it was essential for Singapore's security.
Like his father, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has kept a lid on free speech and has used the defamation laws to sue critics. Lee and other leaders have said that lawsuits are necessary to safeguard their reputations.