Despite not having written the 6 articles singled out as “seditious” by the Singapore Court and even though there is evidence showing he is not in charge of the day-to-day running of the website, former The Real Singapore owner Yang Kai heng, 27, was sentenced to 8 months’ jail for owning the anti-government news media and refusing to disclose financial documents to the Singapore Police. Yang Kai Heng is also the first director of the company in Singapore history to be charged with sedition over ownership of website.
According to sources familiar with the case, the prosecution Deputy Public Prosecutor G Kannan proposed to broker a deal with Yang Kai Heng telling him to plead guilty in exchange of 8 months’ jail, as compared to a 12 months’ sentence. Yang Kai Heng took his offer and plead guilty halfway through out the trial.
Yang Kai Heng’s wife, Ai Takagi, 23, is now 4 months pregnant and currently serving her 10 months’ jail sentence. She will give birth in the jail and would be released earlier if she is on good behaviour.
The Real Singapore is a news media started in September 2011 by Ai Takagi and Yang Kai Heng, and grew in popularity as seasoned writers like Alex Tan and Roy Ngerng publish their contributions through the news site. In it’s 3 years run to May 2015 when it was forcibly shut down by the ruling party government, TRS has published more than 30,000 articles and has even a higher readership than the country’s national newspaper The Straits Times.
The 6 “seditious” articles are not named in the Singapore Court. One of the six articles “particularly seditious” was one where TRS reported wrongly that a Filipino family was involved in an incident where the police arrested some Indian Singaporeans for playing musical instruments on the street during their religious Thaipusam festival in Little India. There was no Filipino family involved but the Singapore government trumped the charges and called the website “xenophobic”, “seditious” and “inciting violence against foreigners”. There was no financial losses, no one was hurt and there was no public uproar over the 6 articles, except from the Singapore government. To-date, the Singapore government did not reveal which are the 6 articles and how they were seditious.
Yang Kai Heng and Ai Takagi were arrested for sedition in Feb 2015 when they arrived in Singapore from Brisbane for a Chinese New Year visit, and the website was subsequently shut down on 3rd May 2015. The third TRS editor Alex Tan who left Singapore for Brisbane shortly after their arrest, then set up a new website States Times Review on 7th May 2015 to continue writing news articles out of Singapore’s censorship regime. Alex Tan said he will never return to Singapore because the Singapore government is corrupted and will find any excuse to similarly charge him for sedition.
The Singapore government has since sued Roy Ngerng into near-bankruptcy by having him pay S$150,000 in defamation damages to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong. Other former TRS writers include Han Hui Hui, who was just found guilty for “causing public nuisance” in the government-allocated protest site Hong Lim Park.