Chinese-American academic Huang Jing denies spy recruitment of Singaporean Jun Wei Yeo
- Huang Jing – now a professor in Beijing – says claims by retired diplomat Bilahari Kausikan are ‘unreasonable’ and demands he prove or retract them
- Huang, who supervised Jun Wei Yeo at the National University of Singapore’s Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, was banned from the city state in 2017
A Chinese-American academic has denied recruiting Singaporean Dickson Yeo to spy for Beijing.
Huang told This Week in Asia claims by the former diplomat Bilahari Kausikan that he was the Chinese “agent” who had recruited Yeo to spy for Beijing were “nonsense” and “unreasonable”, and demanded Bilahari either prove the comments or retract them.
Huang’s denial came as China’s foreign ministry said it had no knowledge of Yeo’s case and criticised Washington for repeatedly accusing Beijing of espionage. “It has reached a state of extreme suspicion. We ask the US to stop this, and to stop using the issue of espionage to continue smearing China,” the ministry’s spokesman Wang Wenbin said on Monday.
Bilahari, formerly the permanent secretary of Singapore’s Foreign Ministry, had responded to the news of Yeo’s guilty plea in a Facebook post pointing out that Huang had been Yeo’s doctoral supervisor before he was expelled from the city state “for being an agent of Chinese influence”.
Bilahari also said it was “not unreasonable to assume” that Yeo had been recruited or at least talent spotted by China’s Ministry of State Security while at the school.
But Huang, now a professor and dean at the Beijing Language and Culture University’s Institute of National and Regional Studies, rubbished the comments.
“Singapore is a country known for its rule of law, what proof does he have? I knew Bilahari when I was in Singapore and have no grudges against him. His comments against me are nonsense and unreasonable,” Huang said.
“[Bilahari] said ‘it is not unreasonable to assume’ that I had introduced Yeo to Chinese intelligence. What does he mean by that? How can a diplomat say that?”
“He should either provide evidence or retract his comments. He owes me an explanation.”
Bilahari responded: “What else would he – can he – say? I cannot take such statements seriously.”
Huang has long denied Singapore’s accusations that he used his position at the policy school to covertly advance the agenda of a foreign country.
In comments to the South China Morning Post last year, he said he had spent a year in Washington DC after his expulsion from Singapore in an effort to clear his reputation.
“I worked the whole year in Washington DC, my home, to show that I am not what Singapore implied I am. Right now, Singapore has not clarified which foreign country I work with so I wanted to show that at least the US doesn’t think I am working for whoever,” he said at the time.
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In his latest comments to This Week in Asia Huang said that of all the students he supervised at the policy school he had experienced the least amount of interaction with Yeo.
“So short were my interactions with him that I didn’t even know his Chinese name. I only know him as Dickson Yeo,” he said.
He said Yeo was referred to him by another faculty member and among the six PhD students under his supervision, Dickson was the worst performer.
Pointing out that it was not uncommon for PhD students to have a few supervisors, Huang said he was brought on board partly because one of Yeo’s areas of research revolved around the foreign policies of small countries.
Huang said he had written a recommendation letter when Yeo wanted to study in the US.
“But overall, Yeo had not written a single paper or handed in any assignment to me. He did not attend any of my classes, my interactions with him are limited,” Huang said.
When asked whether it was common for China to use overseas students to obtain information from foreign countries, Huang said he was not familiar with such practices.
“If you ask me about my area of specialisation I can tell you at length. But this is not something that I know. Nor do I have any insider knowledge,” Huang said.
Court documents said Yeo had worked under the direction and control of Chinese intelligence over the past four to five years, and had used social media sites to “spot and assess” Americans with access to “valuable non-public information”. This included US military and government employees with high-level security clearances.