The Real Singapore co-founder Yang Kaiheng jailed for sedition

Yang will start serving his sentence from July 5. — Picture by Robin Choo/TODAY
Yang will start serving his sentence from July 5. — Picture by Robin Choo/TODAY

SINGAPORE, June 28 ― Co-founder of sociopolitical site The Real Singapore Yang Kaiheng was sentenced to eight months’ jail today after he admitted to six charges of sedition last Friday.

He will start serving his sentence from July 5.

District Judge Chay Yuen Fatt said Yang, 27, had “promoted ill-will among foreign nationalities working in Singapore” and while the articles on the website may have been written by his wife, Ai Takagi, the site was Yang’s “brainchild” and he “permitted and allowed the articles to be published”.

“The accused was made aware that some of the articles published were defamatory but he refused to remove them. He was made aware of the articles in question but did not remove the articles until months later,” the judge said, noting that Yang “showed little remorse and decided to plead guilty later in the trial”.

“He was also uncooperative in investigations. In some aspects, it might even be said he played an equal or even a larger role (than his wife).”

A seventh sedition charge and an eighth charge over failing to produce financial statements on the website’s advertising revenue to the police was taken into consideration in Yang’s sentencing.

Yang had set up the now-defunct site together with Takagi. The 23-year-old Takagi, who faced identical charges, had pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 10 months’ jail in March. She started serving her jail term in April.

While Yang earlier claimed trial, he threw in the towel midway and admitted to the six charges of sedition.

One of the charges was in relation to an article published on Feb 4, 2015, in which a Filipino family was alleged to have caused an incident between the police and Thaipusam participants by complaining about the playing of musical instruments during the procession.

The prosecution had pushed for an eight-month jail term for Yang, arguing that he had treated the investigations and trial as a game. 

“Catch me if you can. I’ll lie and keep on lying until you confront me with evidence. The foundation of his defence is lies, lies and more lies even under oath,” said Deputy Public Prosecutor G Kannan. In running TRS, Yang had adopted an “irresponsible, wholly reckless and no censorship” editorial policy, said the DPP, adding that his crimes had stemmed from omission, rather than commission.

“He exercised zero oversight over what’s been published,” said DPP Kannan. “As administrator, he could have deleted any article, take down the entire site if he wanted to but he did not.”

Yang’s lawyer Choo Zhengxi argued that his client had not written or edited any of the seditious articles in question. “He was not an editor with day-to-day oversight and involvement in the generation of content for the TRS website.”

Furthermore, Yang had been scarred by the entire experience and was no longer interested in “socio-political discourse”, said Choo. In fact, he planned to give up blogging.

But DPP Kannan pointed out that Yang has originally been studying in Australia, and had married an Australian. “There’s a real risk of him returning to Australia, where he can reoffend at will.” 

Yang could have been jailed up to three years and/or a fine of up to S$5,000 (RM15,010) for each charge of sedition. ― TODAY

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