Dickson Yeo, Singaporean who spied for China, arrested by ISD

Staff Writer, Singapore
·Editorial Team
·3-min read
The Ministry of Home Affairs said Yeo was arrested under the Internal Security Act and will be interviewed “to establish if he had engaged in activities prejudicial to Singapore’s security”. (Photo: Getty)
The Ministry of Home Affairs said Yeo was arrested under the Internal Security Act and will be interviewed “to establish if he had engaged in activities prejudicial to Singapore’s security”. (Photo: Getty)

SINGAPORE — Dickson Yeo, the Singaporean man who was jailed in the US for spying for China, has been arrested by the Internal Security Department upon his return to Singapore on Wednesday (30 December).

In a statement, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) said Yeo was arrested under the Internal Security Act and will be interviewed “to establish if he had engaged in activities prejudicial to Singapore’s security”.

“Yeo has admitted in the US federal court to have worked for the Chinese intelligence for monetary rewards. He has also revealed to US investigators that his previous intelligence taskings targeted other states apart from the US,” said MHA.

In October, Yeo was jailed for 14 months for passing to the Chinese government valuable, but unclassified, military and political information that he had duped a number of Americans into giving him. He was first arrested by American counterintelligence officers in November last year.

Prosecutors said that Yeo was motivated by monetary gain and a shared desire with China to weaken the global standing of the US. Among the information Yeo handed over to China were reports on a military aircraft program, US troop withdrawal in Afghanistan and on a US Cabinet member, who was not identified in court documents.

“I take full responsibility for what I have done,” Yeo reportedly said during sentencing. “I am sympathetic to China’s position, but it was not my intention to harm anyone.”

Yeo was a doctoral candidate at the National University of Singapore's Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy (LKYSPP) when he was recruited by Chinese intelligence officers after a 2015 trip to Beijing to give a presentation on the political situation in Southeast Asia.

He pleaded guilty in late July to one charge of operating illegally as a foreign agent, and admitted to working between 2015 and 2019 for Chinese intelligence “to spot and assess Americans with access to valuable non-public information, including US military and government employees with high-level security clearances”.

A few days after he entered his plea, LKYSPP said it had terminated Yeo’s PhD candidature with immediate effect. Yeo had enrolled as a PhD student there in 2015 and was granted a leave of absence in 2019.

In its statement on Wednesday, MHA said, “Singapore will not allow our nationals to be subverted or used by any foreign actors for activities prejudicial to our security and national interests.

“The Government takes a very serious view of any Singaporean who enters into a clandestine relationship with a foreign government and engages in espionage or subversive activities at the behest of the foreign power. We will deal firmly with such individuals in accordance with our laws,” the ministry added.

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