Singapore Conditionally Releases ‘Neutralized’ China Spy After Year-Long Detention

By Keng Onn Wong
Keng Onn Wong
Keng Onn Wong
Keng Onn Wong is a writer based in Singapore.
December 21, 2021 Updated: December 21, 2021

Singapore authorities released 40-year-old Dickson Yeo after detaining him for close to a year for investigations. He was picked up when he arrived back in Singapore after serving a 14-month prison sentence in the United States for covertly collecting intelligence for the Chinese regime.

On Dec. 14, Singapore’s Internal Security Department (ISD) announced in a press release it had completed its investigations into Singaporean Jun Wei Yeo, also known as Dickson Yeo.

It established that Yeo “did not manage [to] obtain and pass on any classified information about Singapore to his foreign handlers.”

“The threat that Yeo poses as a foreign agent is assessed to be effectively neutralized,” the ISD said.

“As such, he does not pose a security threat that warrants continued detention.”

Yeo was released through a “Suspension Direction” (SD) given by the Minister of Home Affairs, K. Shanmugam, which suspends the detention order made under Singapore’s Internal Security Act that is currently enforced on Yeo.

While the detention order is still in force, if Yeo does not comply with any of the conditions of the SD, the minister may revoke it and have Yeo re-detained.

Internal Security Act

The ISD arrested Yeo under the Internal Security Act (ISA) on Dec. 30, 2020, the day he arrived back in Singapore.

In a statement made on the same day, the ISD said it would “interview Yeo to establish if he had engaged in activities prejudicial to Singapore’s security,” as Yeo had revealed to U.S. investigators his intelligence gathering included other countries aside from the United States.

Under the ISA (pdf), a person can be detained without appearing in court for a period of up to two years, but it is used only “as a last resort” and for security threats such as “international terrorism, foreign subversion, espionage, and acts of violence or hatred using race.”

In its statement announcing Yeo’s release, the ISD said its investigations had established that Yeo had knowingly and covertly worked for a foreign state to gather intelligence from 2016 to 2019.

Yeo was first approached through an online professional network site. Then he was invited to an overseas academic symposium where he was requested to write reports for his handlers.

He was paid “substantial amounts” for his reports, which were mainly on “global and regional geo-political issues and developments, including issues related to Singapore.”

Yeo sought “privileged information” on those issues and approached people he thought had access to such information. He also set up a company and placed employment advertisements online. When asked, he said the reports were “research topics” for foreign clients.

Yeo’s strategy was similar to what he did later in the United States, as previously reported by The Epoch Times.

In addition, the ISD said: “On the direction of his handlers, Yeo had also applied for sensitive government positions in order to enrich his reports with privileged policy insights and classified information.

“However, his attempts to secure employment in the public sector were unsuccessful.”

Recruiting Spies Through Social Media

In its statement, the ISD warned social media “has made it easier for foreign intelligence services to talent-spot, groom, and cultivate potential agents, even from abroad.”

Likely targets are “retired/serving civil servants and individuals in the private sector with access to classified or sensitive information.”

“Singaporeans must therefore remain vigilant to such dangers posed by foreign agents,” the ISD said.

These agents may “offer attractive business or career opportunities, or even try to obtain sensitive information.”

The “foreign state” mentioned in the ISD’s press release was not named.

Yeo did not respond to The Epoch Times’s request for comments.

Keng Onn Wong is a writer based in Singapore.