Campaign against MP 'inspired TRS website'

Taking the stand for the first time yesterday, Yang (left) explained how the TRS website came about. He also maintained that his involvement in the site was limited and that it was his wife, Takagi (at far left), who ran the website.
Taking the stand for the first time yesterday, Yang (right) explained how the TRS website came about. He also maintained that his involvement in the site was limited and that it was his wife, Takagi (left), who ran the website. ST PHOTO: WONG KWAI CHOW

Popularity of his Facebook page calling for Tin Pei Ling's removal 'sparked business idea'

A Facebook page lobbying for the removal of a Member of Parliament inspired the co-founders of The Real Singapore (TRS) to create the socio-political website.

Yang Kaiheng, 27, on trial for sedition, said yesterday that he and his wife Ai Takagi, 23, had first set up "Petition to remove Tin Pei Ling as a MP" after the 2011 General Election.

The page had 60,000 likes at the height of its popularity, and gave Yang and Takagi the idea for the TRS Facebook page and website, the court heard yesterday.

Yang took the stand for the first time yesterday.

Seeing how his Facebook page against the People's Action Party's Ms Tin - then an MP for Marine Parade GRC - had gained a large following, Yang said he saw the online platform as a "useful venue to eventually have a business venture".

He added: "We thought a website without censorship and (with) more freedom of speech would be a good business venture for us."

Yang and Takagi have been charged with sedition for using TRS to "maliciously exploit racial and xenophobic faultlines". Takagi had pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 10 months' jail.

Yang yesterday admitted to designing the website and its logo, and researching advertising opportunities for the site.

But he said his involvement was only for "one to two months", after the TRS Facebook page went live in June 2012.

He added that it was Takagi who ran the website, including publishing content, working with a team of editors, and meeting with advertising representatives from Google. Whatever help he provided after that was "ad hoc".

He also denied writing any articles for the site, saying that he was busy with schoolwork at the University of Queensland in Australia and with running a gaming club he founded.

But Deputy Public Prosecutor G. Kannan said that chat logs showed his "continued and sustained involvement" in TRS in 2012, 2013 and 2014.

Wrapping up his case against Yang, DPP Kannan said the evidence of Yang's ownership in TRS was "even stronger" from May 2014 onwards. Yang owned a 50 per cent stake in Ryukun, into which "significant advertising revenue from TRS was paid". He was also a director of the company.

The trial continues.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 07, 2016, with the headline 'Campaign against MP 'inspired TRS website''. Print Edition | Subscribe