TRS trial

TRS trial: Hokkien vulgarities hint it was Yang Kaiheng, says cop

Prosecution shows logs of online chats to counter man's denial about role in website

At Yang's (right) trial, a police witness said he does not believe Takagi (left) "knows these (Hokkien) vulgarities".
At Yang's (right) trial, a police witness said he does not believe Takagi (left) "knows these (Hokkien) vulgarities".

Hokkien vulgarities and Singlish took centre stage at yesterday's trial of Yang Kaiheng, the Singaporean charged with seven counts of sedition for anti-foreigner articles on now-defunct socio-political website The Real Singapore (TRS).

Yang insists he was hardly involved in the running of the site, but the prosecution yesterday produced logs of several online chats to try and show otherwise.

The chats, which took place between 2012 and 2014, were with Web developer Damien Koh and a Vietnamese information technology company, and were written under the Skype account "able_tree", which was used by both Yang and his Australian wife Ai Takagi, 23.

She was given 10 months' jail last week after pleading guilty to four sedition charges, and is due to start her sentence next month.

While the defence argued that Takagi was "able_tree" in the logs, the prosecution drew the court's attention to conversations where Singlish words such as "lah", "lor", "leh'' and "meh", Hokkien phrases, vulgarities and Singapore Armed Forces ranks were used.

In one conversation, "able_tree'' disclosed to Mr Koh that Takagi was "quite zai sia" (Hokkien for steady) and that "she type e-mail like lawyer like that''.

The prosecution also alleged that in one conversation, 27-year-old Yang had boasted about buying a A$350,000 (S$362,000) house in Australia from the income generated by TRS, and urged Mr Koh to "help me protect our passive income".

Bank statements showed that the couple earned between A$20,000 and A$50,000-plus a month.

Yang also allegedly discussed the possibility of setting up a citizen journalism website similar to Singapore's Stomp in Australia. "You handle website, I handle marketing. It is an ugly culture, but can make money," he purportedly told Mr Koh. When asked where the articles would come from, "able_tree'' replied: "Leave it to me la. I pro shit stirrer.''

Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP) Roy Lim Eng Seng, who took the stand yesterday, was asked by Yang's lawyer Choo Zheng Xi if Takagi could have been behind such conversations.

DSP Lim, who is from the Special Investigation Section of the Criminal Investigation Department, felt that the language and words used at times gave him the perception that it was Yang.

"The use of the Hokkien vulgarities was very, very Singaporean, and I said that I do not believe that Ai Takagi knows these vulgarities," he added.

Still, when asked if he was able to attribute a single political article on TRS to Yang, DSP Lim replied "no", unlike in the case of Takagi.

If convicted, Yang could be fined up to $3,000 and/or jailed for up to three years on each charge. The charges include one for an article, put up on Feb 4 last year, which falsely asserted that a Filipino family caused an incident between the police and participants at the Thaipusam procession last year.

The hearing continues.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 30, 2016, with the headline TRS trial: Hokkien vulgarities hint it was Yang Kaiheng, says cop. Subscribe