YouTuber Jailed In Singapore For Criticizing The Government Seeks Asylum In The US

from the are-we-still-a-country-that-believes-in-free-speech? dept

Last year, we wrote about the ridiculous situation for Amos Yee, a teenager in Singapore who was arrested for some of his YouTube videos criticizing Lee Kwan Yew, the country’s founder and long-time Prime Minister. As we said at the time, watching the videos over which he was arrested (which have since been made private), it seemed clear that Yee was doing what many teenagers do, and mouthing off to authority. He was a precocious kid with strong opinions, and he had an audience on YouTube. Good for him.

We quoted an excellent New Yorker profile of Yee at the time that had this fantastic paragraph, written by Nathan Heller:

Yee has all the hallmarks of a green and thriving mind; he is exactly the kind of person you would one day want reviewing your books, making your movies, maybe even running your country. Americans, who enjoy the benefits of free media, have a responsibility to take him more seriously than they take the government that has tried to quiet him for thinking freely in the public sphere. And those of us in the Fourth Estate have a duty to spread word of his ridiculous charges. If people like Amos Yee end up the custodians of our profession, the future of countries like Singapore can be brighter than their past.

A few months ago, Yee got in trouble yet again. Specifically, he was thrown in jail for criticizing religions (Christianity and Islam in particular). Once again, it involved an opinionated teen being punished for his opinions — though, as Phil Robertson of Human Rights Watch noted at the time, there appeared to be something of a Streisand Effect going on:

“Every time the authorities go after him, it just adds to his online audience,” said Mr Robertson in an email.

Apparently, Yee has had enough of being sent to jail in Singapore for his opinions and has applied for political asylum in the US. Somewhat amusingly, just a day before hopping a flight to Chicago, Yee gave an interview to a Singapore publication claiming that he was a changed individual, and had a new view on freedom of expression:

Yee explains that his position now is: if a social media user is found to be inciting harassment and gets taken down, that isn?t clamping down of free speech. That?s what should be done.

Along that line, he also believes it would have been reasonable for YouTube to take down many of his videos, which he has now largely retrospectively privatised.

?I could even go as far as to say that my kind of video that humps the Quran, and was overly rude to religious people. I?d probably want my videos and maybe even my account to be taken down too. It is just not a good way to communicate information to people.?

And then the next day he suddenly arrived in Chicago seeking asylum:

Amos Yee, 18, was detained Dec. 16 and remains in custody “pending federal immigration court proceedings,” U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokeswoman Gail Montenegro said in a written statement.

Separately, Marilu Cabrera with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, which handles some asylum requests, said the agency “cannot confirm or deny” details of any asylum case.

The Human Rights Watch deputy director for Asia, Phil Robertson, called on the U.S. to recognize Yee’s asylum claim, saying he has been consistently harassed by the Singapore government for publicly expressing his views on politics and religion and severely criticizing the city-state’s leaders, including late Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew.

Whether or not you agree with Yee’s views, it is an important free speech case — and granting him asylum would be a good way to show that the US still does believe in promoting freedom of expression around the globe.

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Comments on “YouTuber Jailed In Singapore For Criticizing The Government Seeks Asylum In The US”

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TechnoMage (profile) says:

Do we?

“that the US still does believe in promoting freedom of expression around the globe.”

Do we?… Honestly, I’m not being Hyperbolic… but President Electoral Trump has said that he wants to crack down on free speech and introduce UK-like libel laws…

So I’m not sure if your statement has much validity to it… or will here soon. (I’m not a huge fan of Obama, but at least he hasn’t taken -that- step (yet))

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Absolutely so

The USG is very much still in favor of free speech. You are free to say anything complementary of the USG, as much as you want, and they will not in any way attempt to prevent you from doing so.

Commie-terrorist-criminal speech on the other hand, such as being critical of the USG is very much not allowed, and rightly so, as only someone mentally deranged and probably with a habit of drop-kicking puppies would ever even dream of saying something critical of the government, so squashing that sort of ‘speech’ is not only acceptable, it’s to be lauded as a service to the public.

Koby (profile) says:

A fascinating loophole

If Amos Yee is granted asylum, it poses a potential loophole for immigration. That is, anyone who lives in a country with some kind of anti-free-speech laws can willingly violate those laws in a manner critical of their own government, hop on a plane, and force the United States to grand them indefinite legal status? Ought 4 billion+ people get an entry ticket into the USA?

Shanghai Bob says:


” Lee Kwan Yew, the country’s founder and long-time Prime Minister.”

There’s your problem, right there. 31 years that fucker was in office. 31 years. The next cunt was in for nearly 14 and the current one has been in for over 12 and showing no signs of letting the reins go. Whoops nearly said “reigns” there. Looks to me like the Singapore People’s Action Party have the monopoly on government.

Begs the question, why did Singapore ever bother seeking independence from Britain?

Mike Priz (user link) says:

Re: Wha....?

Commie Bob’s knowledge of foul mouth words is better than his knowledge of history. All of Singapore’s leaders were elected by the people. Some of the laws may seem harsh to liberals like the canning of an American boy for graffiti, no chewing gum allowed in the country, etc. But, Singapore is a gem of a city/country compared to its neighbors like Malaysia. It’s diverse population loves the standard of living and cleanliness of the city. No one seems to be desperate to leave except for an immature teenager, and there are thousands who would love to immigrate to Singapore. Every Singapore citizen I have talked to is very proud of their country.

GEMont (profile) says:

Re: Re: Wha....?

“All of Singapore’s leaders were elected by the people.”

Just like the Grand Dragon; T. Rump, was “elected by the people”…

Elections (as everyone, everywhere knows), cannot be fixed by any number of conspiring billionaires, or their (remotely controlled) voting machines and the results of an election are always an exact display of the preferences of the majority of the public. /s

“Every Singapore citizen I have talked to is very proud of their country.”

And its a damn good thing they told you that, or they too might be seeking asylum in other countries today as well, if they were not still in prison.

OldGeezer (profile) says:

Re: Amos Yee think child pron should be legal

Yeah, that will probably be a BIG problem to granting him asylum. There are those that say simple possession of kiddie porn should not be as serious a crime but he is defending those producing it. Not just taking photos but actually raping kids. Everybody jumps on the fact that when molesters are caught they usually find illegal porn. There are some that contend that many pedophiles find release for these urges by it and are less likely to actually harm a child. A lot of people watch adult porn that do not become rapists.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Amos Yee think child pron should be legal

“There are those that say simple possession of kiddie porn should not be as serious a crime but he is defending those producing it.”

I’ve seen lots of people here on TD calling for the decriminalization of the production of kiddie porn, so long as it’s produced by kids.

OldGeezer (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Amos Yee think child pron should be legal

Teenagers sexting is hardly the same thing. It isn’t against the law for them to have sex so why should it be to send each other photos when they can get naked together? Yeah, it’s a dumb thing to do but hardly criminal. When You are talking about underage and adults that’s an entirely different situation.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Amos Yee think child pron should be legal

You just need the right kind of fanatic to make calls to decriminalize teens sexting as bad as raping them and eating their hearts.

You are forgetting that for every thing that you think that is right, there is always someone that thinks it’s wrong.

That’s why I’d be careful with what you want. Now you want to deny him asylum for wanting to decriminalize CP.

Someone else, for example wants to deny a TD reader asylum for wanting to decriminalize texting. Or for wanting to decriminalize filesharing (you know, you’re taking jobs away from America). Or for being against Trump (you don’t want to make America GREAT again?).

Give me your poison. I got the right antidote for you.

Anonymous Coward says:

And what’s the problem with that?

Free Speech is Free Speech. And that includes speech that you might hate. Of course, you’re pretty much free to disagree with him, and to say so.

The problem isn’t what he “thinks” or even what he “says”, but what he “does”. Or at least, that should be the case.

We are getting too used to criminalizing ideas, instead of reasoning against them.

OldGeezer (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Big difference between allowing free speech and the government officially sanctioning his defense of child rape, not just possessing or even taking photos. If he was already a citizen legally he could express any vile idea he wants. Had he just been persecuted for criticizing his government I would be all in favor of protecting him. Allowing asylum would have political ramifications whether you think it’s right or not. I don’t think even the ACLU would touch this.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Well, it’s the same as wanting to legalize drugs or back then, when engaging in homosexual acts was illegal, being gay. Or nowadays, speaking against copyright.

It’s not illegal, and it should never be, wanting the laws to change or speaking against them.

Actually, being gay is legal now (well, not sure in the US, but in the EU it is) because people were able to express their thoughts against it.

Thought, or even speech supporting a thought, should never be illegal; because that’s what shapes our society.

What is illegal is committing the act (in that case, raping a child), or acts directed straight against them (that is, harassing a child, for example, even verbally).

Also, he’s not inciting people to commit criminal acts. He’s saying that the law should be changed. It’s a whole different thing.

For that same reason, speaking against copyright laws should be illegal.

OldGeezer (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

It’s not someone’s right to be granted asylum in this country. It’s a special privilege we grant only in certain situations. To say there should be degrees in the law on porn from simple possession to sharing, selling, producing with no sexual acts, just how explicit the photos, I would have to agree. In the US it is not always illegal to photograph children nude within very strict limits. For the US to take a stand for someone persecuted just criticizing governments or religious reasons is what we are all about. Asylum is not a right. When someone is saying there is nothing wrong with child rape we have to consider the ramifications not only with our own people but internationally. People have been denied asylum over much more minor reasons. It’s odd that the article failed to mention this. You can delete all the tweets you want but they will never be gone.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

Sorry, you’re mistaken there.

It IS a human right:

“Article 14.

(1) Everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution.
(2) This right may not be invoked in the case of prosecutions genuinely arising from non-political crimes or from acts contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations.”

There is also the Geneva Convention of 1951 related to this. This is coming from International Treaties that are the base for many Constitutions (and even if the US is prior to that, they have signed both conventions, so they are bound to them).

The US “doesn’t take a stand for anyone”, he just follows international conventions that, for our own interests, it’s better if they are followed to the letter.

The US is obligated by law to take refugees in. More examples about it:

Who knows if we might end up being the next refugees.

The basis to deny asylum are either that you don’t meet the requirements (he meets them, he has been jailed for criticizing his government).

Or that you may be a risk for the national security: that usually implies specific criminal convictions. You might not like what he says, but it isn’t a crime even if the US.

I know that people have been rejected for much more minor reasons, plenty of them for unlawful reasons.

In fact, many countries that are rejecting refugees are doing so unlawfully. Just that there is no one to sue them.

Sure, from the practical point of view, he might get rejected because you know, there are a lot of judges that apply what they want instead of the Law (and International Treaties), the same as you’re doing.

You’re rejecting him because you don’t agree with what he says. I don’t agree with it, either, but that has nothing to do with the fact that he is being persecuted.

And that claiming that child rape should be legal isn’t a crime itself. You can put all the expletives you want to that act.

But being a motherfucker son of a bitch isn’t a crime. If it was, there wouldn’t be enough jails in the world for it.

Anonymous Coward says:

“I don’t agree with what you say, but I will fight to insure that you can say it loud and clear.”

Some say that this was once the attitude of the obviously legendary, but apparently long extinct American Public.

“I don’t agree with what you say, and I will fight to insure that you can never say it anywhere, or to anyone, ever again, by creating laws that make saying that illegal.”

Seems to be the general bent of the current population inhabiting the lands that once belonged to that possibly mythical people.

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