AUGUST 20 — So, Amos Yee is in jail. The outspoken young videographer, dissident, loudmouth, misguided youth (depending on who you speak to) is languishing in jail and apparently being harassed by much older and larger inmates.
It’s been reported that he’s even had his meals taken away from him by intimidating older men.
It is really an indictment of the detention system that such a young man is in captivity and exposed to hardened criminals. But what’s extraordinary about his incarceration is that he is no longer in Singapore but instead in the USA instead.
Yee was remanded and found guilty of obscenity and “wounding religious feelings” in Singapore in 2015, then remanded again on similar charges in 2016.
The young man has posted numerous videos of himself criticising, among other things, the founding father of Singapore Lee Kuan Yew, the Christian religion, various local politicians and Margret Thatcher.
Some of these videos drew complaints and earned him sentences from the courts.
Fearing further legal action, Yee fled to the USA in December 2016 and landing at Chicago airport he appealed for political asylum and the right to remain in the USA.
However, Yee then found himself detained at various facilities including public jails as his asylum case was heard.
He won his bid for asylum in March 2017 with the court ruling he faced the threat of persecution in Singapore but the US federal government appealed the court’s decision.
Yee, therefore, remains in detention and has in fact been detained longer in the US than he ever was in Singapore.
The whole saga strikes me as traumatic and utterly excessive for a loud-mouthed harmless 16-year-old (at the time of his initial videos) kid.
While many posting on online forums seem to delight at his fate I really don’t think anyone should take pleasure in a child’s captivity.
Yee made some silly videos and it is extraordinary that years later, the upshot of that is he is in a detention facility on the other side of the world.
His original outburst needed a slap on the wrist and well, the USA as a bastion of “free speech” may as well have granted the boy asylum.
Even worse is his reported treatment in US detention centres; housed in proximity to hardened and much older criminals.
Of course, the US is famously indifferent to its allies in terms of human rights violation allegations and yet it has traditionally been tolerant of dissidents who come from these countries.
In fact, yet another one has taken up residence in the US — Li Shengwu, grandson of Lee Kuan Yew and nephew of our current prime minister, has reportedly returned to Harvard where he pursues research in economics.
This 32-year-old reportedly fears legal action, detention or persecution in Singapore and the power of the ruling party as part of an ongoing feud within the Lee family over property and the family home.
Li is unlikely to return to Singapore anytime soon but as a fellow at Harvard, he is also not likely to up in a detention centre.
Still both these men have journeyed to the West to allow them to speak freely on matters at home. I wonder what that says about Singapore.
*This is the personal opinion of the columnist.