TRS trial: Yang Kaiheng pleads guilty to sedition charges

TRS trial: Yang Kaiheng pleads guilty to sedition charges

The 27-year-old admits he had used The Real Singapore website to "promote feelings of ill-will and hostility" and to fan anti-foreigner sentiments in Singapore.

SINGAPORE: Owner of now-defunct sociopolitical site The Real Singapore (TRS), Yang Kaiheng, pleaded guilty to six counts under the Sedition Act on Friday (Jun 24).

The 27-year-old admitted he had used the popular site to "promote feelings of ill-will and hostility" and to fan anti-foreigner sentiments in Singapore, via seven seditious posts targeting foreign workers here.

Yang's plea of guilt was entered midway through his trial, after prosecutors poked holes in his testimony, cornering Yang into admitting he had lied under oath.

Prosecutors said Yang had lied numerous times throughout his seven-day trial. He had denied TRS was a “business venture” and insisted he did not know how much advertising revenue it generated.

However, the prosecution, led by Deputy Public Prosecutor G Kannan, showed bank statements showing TRS netted Yang and his wife Ai Takagi, 23, more than half a million dollars in less than three years.

Court documents show the young couple paid off their A$190,000 (S$191,768) 30-year home loan in just 11 months, using advertising revenue generated from TRS.

DPP Kannan also told the court on Friday that Yang, not his wife, controlled much of the revenue generated from TRS. Between December 2012 and December 2013, Takagi transferred S$91,819 – about 91 per cent of that year’s earnings – into Yang’s personal bank account, the DPP said.

The prosecution said Yang had set up TRS after his Facebook page “Petition to Remove Tin Pei Ling as an MP” became popular here. He knew there was no way to monetize traffic to a Facebook page – so he set up a website, and placed advertisements on it, DPP Kannan said.

The prosecutor noted Yang, despite being aware TRS’ content was “stirring up anger and resentment in Singapore”, continued to allow Takagi to publish posts dealing with race, religion and nationality.

The seditious posts received hostile comments, and Yang even received death threats, DPP Kannan said. However, although Yang was free to “remove or edit objectionable content”, the posts, which “promoted feelings of ill-will and hostility between different classes of the population of Singapore”, remained on the blog.

Takagi is currently serving a 10-month jail term. She pleaded guilty earlier 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 total advertising revenue generated by TRS from December 2012 until Apr 2015 was S$548,240. The site was shut down by the Media Development Authority in May 2015.

For sedition, Yang could face up to three years’ jail and/or a fine of S$5,000 per charge.

A seventh sedition charge, as well as one charge for failing to produce financial statements relating to the blog’s advertising revenue, will be taken into consideration when Yang is sentenced.

His next hearing is on Jun 28.

Source: CNA/kk