Chinese Singaporean detained for trying to join fight against ISIS in Syria

Well that’s a first.

Yesterday (16 Mar), the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) revealed that four men have been arrested under the Internal Security Act (ISA) for engaging in overseas armed conflict, or intending to do so. Of the four, one name stood out.

Wang Yuandongyi, a 23-year-old, is ethnically Chinese. As a matter of fact, he was from China but became a Singapore citizen in 2014 and has even gone through National Service.

The ministry said:

Wang is not a Muslim. He had arrived in Singapore as a child and was educated here. Wang has completed his National Service. He is the first ethnic Chinese placed under a Restriction Order for intending to undertake violence in overseas armed conflicts.


Wang had planned to travel to Syria to the Kurdish militia group that is fighting against the Islamic State. When he left Singapore, he brought along his Singapore Armed Forces-issued gear like his uniform and boots.

Speaking to the media, Head of Policy Studies at S Rajaratnam School of International Studies, Dr Kumar Ramakrishna said that Wang is likely the first known Singaporean, who intended to fight not for, but against ISIS.

Caught outside of Singapore

Wang left Singapore in Jan 2016 for a third, undisclosed country, from where he planned to travel to Turkey and eventually to Syria. But someone who became aware of his plans reported him and on Singapore’s request, Wang was located and turned back to Singapore. Investigations revealed that Wang learnt about the Kurds through the news in November 2015 and then started looking up information online about ISIS’ attacks against them in Syria.

Failed businessman, fanatic soldier?

According to the ministry,

He began to empathise with the plight of the Kurds and to detest ISIS. At the same time, he was looking to escape from personal setbacks, like his financial liabilities arising from a failed business venture.

Since 2002, 72 people have been detained by the ISA for terrorism-related activities, the ministry added.

Wang’s case brings up questions about race and radicalisation, and why some people — no matter what race or religion — would die for another cause or country.


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Featured image via EPP Group
With reference to Channel NewsAsia