20 August 2019
Amos Yee's father apologized outside the court to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong. Photo: AFP
Amos Yee's father apologized outside the court to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong. Photo: AFP

Singapore teenager charged over anti-Lee Kuan Yew rant

A Singaporean teenager has been charged over his online video assailing the authoritarian rule of founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew and disparagingly comparing the late leader to Jesus Christ.

Amos Yee, 16, was detained on Sunday shortly after Lee’s state funeral, and later freed on a S$20,000 (US$14,500) bail, BBC News reported.

In an eight-minute, expletive-laden video uploaded last Friday, the outspoken youth expressed delight over Lee’s death and called him a “horrible person”.

He assailed the late leader for his ironclad rule of the city state, and said people were scared to criticize him as if he were the Christ.

The video raised an outcry among grieving Singaporeans and more than 20 police reports were lodged, the news agency said, noting that the country has strict laws against hate speeches.

Yee later took down the video, but copies have since been uploaded on YouTube.

On Tuesday, Yee appeared in court to be charged on three counts: “deliberate intention of wounding the religious or racial feelings of any person”, distributing obscene material and harassment.

He faces a fine and a jail term of up to three years if convicted.

In addition to bail, Yee agreed not to post any material online while the case is in progress.

Speaking outside the courtroom, his father apologized to the late leader’s son, the current Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

Singapore’s hate speech laws are intended to ensure harmony among its multi-ethnic population and prevent a recurrence of the racial violence of its early years, the BBC said.

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), a media rights group, said the arrest “highlights the restrictive environment in which Singaporean journalists are forced to work”.

“We call on authorities to release Amos Yee immediately and to undertake reform of Singapore’s outdated laws restricting the media,” said CPJ’s Asia spokesman Bob Dietz.

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