SINGAPORE: The owner of now-defunct sociopolitical site The Real Singapore (TRS) was on Tuesday (Jun 28) sentenced to eight months' jail after he pleaded guilty last week to six sedition charges.
Yang Kaiheng, 27, admitted he had used his popular site to “promote feelings of ill-will and hostility” and to fan anti-foreigner sentiments in Singapore.
The prosecution, led by Deputy Public Prosecutor G Kannan, said Yang “cannot expect to get away lightly after toying with our peace and harmony”. He said Yang’s conduct, if left unchecked, “can tear our society apart”.
Yang and his wife, Ai Takagi, 23, had published at least seven seditious posts targeting foreigners here. “All foreigners … were fair game in the business (Yang) ran. For what? The almighty dollar,” DPP Kannan said.
“At the heart of this case … lies the exploitation of such feelings (of xenophobia and racism) purely for financial gain,” said District Judge Chay Yuen Fatt, in sentencing Yang.
YANG ALLOWED TAKAGI TO “KICK UP A STORM” FOR MORE MONEY: JUDGE
Bank statements show TRS netted Yang and Takagi more than half a million dollars in advertising revenue in less than three years, allowing the couple to pay off their A$190,000 (S$191,768) 30-year home loan in just 11 months.
The prosecution argued that Yang, despite being aware the seditious posts were “stirring up anger and resentment in Singapore”, continued to allow Takagi to publish posts dealing with race, religion and nationality.
“His crimes are crimes of omission as much as they are crimes of commission,” DPP Kannan told the court, pointing to the fact that Yang did nothing to rein in his wife.
The prosecution also slammed Yang’s “irresponsible and wholly reckless, no-censorship editorial policy”.
Judge Chay said that though the seditious posts may have been penned or edited by Takagi, TRS was the “brainchild” of Yang, who had "full control” of the site. Agreeing with the prosecution, Judge Chay said Yang did nothing to stem the outpouring of “xenophobic and racist feelings” of readers.
Instead, he allowed Takagi to “kick up a storm on the Internet with zero control” so as to generate even more revenue, the judge said.
The prosecution also pointed out Yang’s plea of guilt was entered midway through his trial, “after his credibility was demolished on the stand". DPP Kannan said Yang has shown no remorse and had no choice, now that conviction was "staring him in the face”.
YANG NOT INVOLVED IN DAY-TO-DAY OPERATIONS OF TRS: DEFENCE
Defence lawyer Choo Zheng Xi argued that a five-month sentence would suffice, describing his client's role in TRS as "limited". “He did not have a writing or editorial role in TRS,” Mr Choo said.
He added that Yang who has been “scarred” by this experience, has given up socio-political blogging.
Mr Choo also highlighted “extreme hardship” Yang has had to cope with. His father suffers from “locked-in syndrome” and requires intensive daily care, the lawyer said.
Takagi is currently serving a 10-month jail term. She pleaded guilty earlier this year to four sedition charges.
At a hearing for Takagi earlier this year, prosecutors charged that the Australian university student had concocted "scandalous, provocative and racy material" in a bid to increase TRS' following and garner "enormous" advertising revenue.
The site was shut down by the Media Development Authority in May 2015.
For sedition, Yang could have been jailed for up to three years and/or fined up to S$5,000 per charge.