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Yong Vui Kong (born 23 January 1988) is a Malaysian citizen of Hakka Chinese descent who was sentenced to death in Singapore for trafficking more than 15 grams of heroin in 2007. His sentence was reduced to life imprisonment and caning as a result of Singapore's amendments to the Misuse of Drugs Act.

Personal life[]

Yong is from the state of Sabah, Malaysia. He was working as a "runner" (meaning courier or mule) for an unidentified criminal boss,[1] when he was arrested in 2007 with Template:Convert of heroin. He was 19 years old at the time, and thus not an adult (the age of majority in Singapore is 21 years). He is also said to be ignorant of the death penalty for smuggling drugs or that the package he was carrying contained drugs.

Yong was originally represented in the High Court by lawyer Kelvin Lim. Due to Yong's young age, and since execution is mandatory for a person convicted of trafficking in more than Template:Convert of diamorphine, the trial judge Justice Choo Han Teck asked the prosecution to consider reducing the charge against him. The prosecution declined, and Yong was found guilty and sentenced to death.[2] Through his then lawyer, Yong filed an appeal against the conviction and sentence, but withdrew it on 29 April 2009, the day of the appeal hearing. He then petitioned to President S. R. Nathan for clemency on 11 August 2009, but this was declined on 20 November 2009.

On 2 December 2009, two days before the scheduled date of Yong's execution, human rights lawyer M. Ravi took over Yong's case and obtained a stay of execution before the High Court until the Court of Appeal could hear the application to restore Yong's appeal for hearing. On 8 December 2009, the Court of Appeal, consisting of Chief Justice Chan Sek Keong, Judges of Appeal Andrew Phang and V. K. Rajah, restored Yong's appeal for hearing. The court accepted Ravi's argument that Yong had withdrawn the appeal on the mistaken belief that he could not re-argue the unconstitutionality of the death penalty, in light of past court decisions such as the case of Van Tuong Nguyen. The three judges then proceeded to hear the appeal on 15 March 2010, and on 14 May 2010, they ruled in Yong Vui Kong v. Public Prosecutor that the mandatory death penalty imposed by the Misuse of Drugs Act[3] did not infringe Articles 9(1) and 12(1) of the Singapore Constitution.[4]

Before the Court of Appeal delivered its judgment, Minister of Law K Shanmugam commented on the mandatory death penalty at a community event and cited Yong's case as an example. M. Ravi filed an application in the High Court for leave to challenge the clemency process by way of judicial review. The application was dismissed and M. Ravi went before the same three judges, who heard Yong's appeal, in the appeal against the leave application. On 4 April 2011, the Court of Appeal dismissed the appeal against that judgment. It affirmed the High Court's view that the President did not possess any personal discretion when exercising the clemency power, and was required to act in accordance with Cabinet's advice on the matter. This conclusion was evident from the wording of Article 22P(1) of the Constitution, the legislative history of the clemency power in Singapore, relevant case law, and the nature of the President's power in the Constitution.

Subsequently, M. Ravi applied before those three judges in the Court of Appeal once more to re-open its decision on Yong's appeal in March 2012, alleging that Yong had been discriminated when the Attorney-General, in his capacity as the Public Prosecutor, decided to charge Yong for capital offences while applying for discharges not amounting to acquittals for the mastermind behind Yong. The new argument was based on a recent judgment in January that year where the three judges ruled against another drug trafficker represented by M. Ravi, that while the prosecutorial discretion is subjected to judicial review, the applicant failed to produce evidence that the Public Prosecutor took into account irrelevant considerations or was biased in his decision. This application was also dismissed on 4 April 2012.

In July 2012, the Singapore government agreed to ratify changes to the mandatory death sentence for drug trafficking and murder offenses – those currently on death row may apply to have their death sentence reduced to life imprisonment.[5]

On 14 November 2013, Yong's death penalty was officially lifted. He has become the first drug trafficker on death row to have his sentence reduced to life imprisonment and caning (15 strokes), under amendments made to the Misuse of Drugs Act.[6] On 22 August 2014, M. Ravi appealed against the new sentence, this time before Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon, Judge of Appeal Andrew Phang and Justice Tay Yong Kwang, that the caning imposed on Yong is unconstitutional. This appeal was dismissed on 4 March 2015.


  1. Young Malaysian Facing Execution in Singapore Template:Webarchive Asian Center for the Progress of Peoples, 10 November 2009.
  2. Save Vui Kong: Yong Vui Kong's journey.
  3. Template:Singapore legislation.
  4. Save Malaysian on death row in Singapore, Loyar Burok (Malaysian law blog).
  5. Glimmer of hope for Vui Kong, by Roger Tan, The Sunday Star, 23 September 2012.
  6. Death penalty lifted for Yong Vui Kong TODAY Online, 14 November 2013.

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