SINGAPORE – A Singaporean teenager was found guilty Tuesday, May 12, over an expletive-laden YouTube video attacking the city-state’s late founding father Lee Kuan Yew and Christianity, in a case activists said amounted to censorship.
Amos Yee, 16, was convicted in a district court on two charges – offending religious feeling and circulating “obscene” content – after pleading not guilty in a two-day trial. The sentence is yet to be handed down.
The charges related to a graphic image of Lee and former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher that the teenager posted on his blog, and a video rant which he uploaded after the death of Singapore’s patriarch on March 23.
In the 8-minute monologue titled “Lee Kuan Yew is finally dead”, Yee compared Singapore’s founding prime minister with Jesus, saying “they are both power-hungry and malicious but deceive others into thinking they are compassionate and kind”.
“I am satisfied that the ingredients of the charge have been fulfilled,” district judge Jasvender Kaur said.
Although both charges provide for jail terms and fines, state prosecutors told the judge that imprisonment or a fine would not be suitable, describing Yee as a “misguided young man” who needed counseling and “appropriate probation”.
Yee’s case gained national attention with some activists and critics of the long-ruling People’s Action Party, which Lee co-founded, portraying the teenager as a victim of the government’s tough censorship rules.
Phil Robertson, deputy director for Asia at Human Rights Watch, slammed Yee’s conviction.
“The reality is convicting Amos Yee was all about publicly punishing a youthful dissident who dared besmirch the image of the recently passed leader, and intimidating anyone else who might think of doing the same in the future,” he said in a statement.
“Singapore’s actions to criminalize Yee’s statements run contrary to international human rights standards and are a dangerous affront to freedom of expression.”
Others however have taken to social media to chastise Yee for his apparent irreverence for Christianity and for Lee, widely seen as the architect of Singapore’s rapid rise to one of Asia’s richest and most stable societies. – Bhavan Jaipragas, AFP / Rappler.com