SINGAPORE - Pretending to be a woman, former national badminton player Ashton Chen Yongzhao set up a Facebook account in late 2013 so that he could chat with girls about their sexual experiences.
Calling himself “Qing Hong”, he befriended a Secondary 1 student and later told the girl that there was a man who was interested in her.
Chen - as this man, who called himself “Sotong” - and the girl, then 13, started chatting before the pair met in early 2014 for the first time, at a Tampines block of flats. There, she performed oral sex on him at a staircase landing.
Chen, 28, was jailed for two years and four months on Tuesday (July 3) after pleading guilty to three counts of engaging in consensual sexual activities with the girl.
Three other charges for similar offences involving the same minor were considered during sentencing.
The court heard that about a year after the initial encounter, “Qing Hong” contacted the girl again and found out that she had indulged in sexual activities with her boyfriend.
“Qing Hong” asked the girl if she was willing to have sex with a man and the minor replied that she was not interested, as she wanted to remain loyal to her boyfriend.
But between late 2015 and early 2016, the teenager told “Qing Hong” that she would meet Chen only if he could help her.
Deputy Public Prosecutor Sruthi Boppana told District Judge Hamidah Ibrahim on Tuesday: “The victim explained that she was in need of money. ‘Qing Hong’ then responded by saying that the accused would be willing to meet her and asked whether she would be willing to perform oral sex and have sexual intercourse if he gave her money. The victim agreed.”
Chen later met the girl, then 14, at a Simei multi-storey carpark and he gave her $80. She performed oral sex on him and they had protected sexual intercourse before going their separate ways.
The girl contacted Chen again in July 2016 as she was still in need of money. He gave her another $80 at the staircase landing of a Simei block of flats and she performed oral sex on him.
The pair stopped communicating with each other after this encounter.
On Tuesday, DPP Sruthi urged the court to jail Chen for two years and nine months, stressing that his offences were not one-off incidents.
Chen’s lawyer, Mr Terence Seah, pleaded for his client to be jailed for one year and four months. He added that Chen had served the country well as a sportsman and had “brought glory” to the nation.
Chen also addressed the court and told the judge: “I sincerely apologise for the mistakes I’ve committed... I just want to assure (the court) that I won’t repeat such mistakes in the future.”
Chen’s LinkedIn profile states that he has taken part in major competitions such as the South-east Asia (SEA) Games, the Commonwealth Games and the World Championships.
His run as a professional badminton men’s singles player ended in April 2014. He was then the men’s singles world No. 69.
At one point, he reached a career-high ranking of No. 50 and was Singapore’s second-ranked singles player behind Derek Wong, who was then at No. 47.
Chen first made headlines in 2007 after beating Malaysia’s former world No. 1 Roslin Hashim at the Asian Satellite tournament.
He was also a member of the men’s team that won a silver at the 2007 SEA Games and bronze in the same competition in 2009 and 2011.
Offenders convicted of having consensual sex with a child below 14 years old can be jailed for up to 20 years and fined or caned. Those convicted of having consensual sex with a minor between 14 and 15 years old can be jailed for up to 10 years and fined for each charge.