Written by Joseph Ong

Singaporean Dickson Yeo has been sentenced to 14 months of jail in the US for spying for China. 


How it Began

In 2015, Yeo enrolled in the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy as a PHD student researching China’s treatment of small states. In the same year, he was recruited by Chinese intelligence operatives during an academic related visit to Beijing. 

They asked him to get non-public information about the US Commerce Department, artificial intelligence and the US-China trade war. He used a fake consultancy business in the US as a front to recruit US military and government personnel with access to such information. 

He was finally arrested when he returned to the US last November to try and extract sensitive information from a US army officer working at the Pentagon. He pleaded guilty in a federal court in Washington DC to one charge of operating illegally as a foreign agent. 

On a related note, his PhD supervisor was Huang Jing who was expelled and banned from Singapore in 2017 for being a “Chinese agent of influence”. Huang, who is now a distinguished professor and dean at the Beijing Language and Culture University, was “really surprised” but “glad that Yeo was caught”.


The Sentencing 

Washington federal judge Tanya Chutkan said that Yeo was given a relatively light sentence of 14 months in jail due to his cooperation with US authorities.

At the point of Yeo’s arrest at the airport, he could have boarded a plane that would have taken him out of the US scot-free. Instead, he agreed to be interviewed by the FBI where he confessed his misdeeds. 

In the sentencing hearing, Yeo broke down and expressed regrets over his actions. “All I’d like is to go home to my family,” he said. 

However, despite everything that has happened, Yeo is “still sympathetic to the Chinese cause”, arguing that the US is “out to, sort of, bleed China dry”. 

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