Amos Yee interviewed by New York Times while still under detention for seeking asylum

Power of the press.

Belmont Lay | December 29, 2016, 07:17 PM

The venerable New York Times has managed to sneak in an interview with Singaporean l'enfant terrible, Amos Yee, while he is held in a detention centre in Chicago, Illinois.

The United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement website indicated that the 18-year-old Singaporean male is detained in the McHenry County Adult Correctional Facility in Woodstock, Illinois.

South China Morning Post reported that Yee was detained on Dec. 16, after he landed at O’Hare Airport in Chicago.

NYT quoted Yee explaining himself and his political asylum bid:

Mr. Yee, who is being held at an immigration detention centre in Illinois as he awaits the next steps in his asylum case, said in a phone interview that he believed free speech should be "unbridled" worldwide, and that he hoped to continue criticising religion "without the fear of being sent to jail."

He also attributed some of his most offensive videos to "a phase," and said that he planned to spread a more palatable message moving forward in order to appeal to a wider audience.

Of his past work, Mr. Yee said, "I think that the entertainment value of my content actually pushed activism a few steps back."

In July 2015, Yee was sentenced to four weeks’ jail after he pleaded guilty to six charges for wounding the religious feelings of Christians and Muslims in Singapore.

In late September 2016, Yee was again sentenced to six weeks’ jail for the same offence.

Yee is due to be enlisted for National Service soon.

Immigration lawyer, Sandra Grossman, who is representing Yee in his asylum case, was quoted in the same article saying that the outcome of Yee's case could end up saying a lot about how the US treats its own freedom of expression cases:

"We're all dealing with these issues of, 'What are the lines, what are the boundaries, what's permissible?'"

This is so as the US grapples with issues of free speech in an anti-political correctness, border-shutting, inward-looking, nativist-championing, Donald Trump era.

Quoting Melissa Chen, a Singaporean human rights activist who is now a legal permanent resident of the US, NYT wrote that even though she was "not entertained" by Yee's videos, she said the dozens of Singaporeans who had filed police reports against him overcorrected:

"I call it the tyranny of the offended," she said.

Chen had helped Yee flee Singapore.


Related article:

Amos Yee’s mom declines speaking with media, confirms son seeking political asylum in US


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