In a letter to the Prime Minister on Saturday, a group of members of the public, which include parents and prominent members of the community, have expressed concerns over the “harsh treatment” of 16-year old video-blogger Amos Yee.
“We are writing to register our deep concern as citizens and as parents, teachers and other adults who work with children and young people, over the State’s prosecution of Amos Yee,” the letter, endorsed by 77 signatories, said.
“Besides the negative impact on his well-being and that of his family, the harsh treatment he has faced creates a negative environment for all younger members of our society.”
They also urged Mr Lee “to honour Singapore’s commitments under the Convention on the Rights of the Child to always act with the best interests of the child as a primary consideration in all actions undertaken by public institutions.”
“We are aware of the negative aspects of Amos’ communications,” the letter said. “Nonetheless, we are troubled by the State’s harsh reactions to them, including the prosecution’s request for reformative training lasting at least 18 months.”
The group said it hopes the letter “will be received in good faith – as a demonstration of our commitment to just and reasonable processes, and our shared concern with the State toward the safe-guarding and nurturing of our young.”
The letter is also copied to Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Home Affairs Teo Chee Hean, Education Minister Heng Swee Keat, and Attorney General VK Rajah.
The letter is the latest to join in the call for the release of the teenager or to express concerns about his treatment by the State. The United Nations, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have all called for the youth to be released immediately, and protests in Taiwan, Hong Kong and Malaysia have also taken place in support of the boy.
Singaporeans will also be taking to Hong Lim Park tomorrow (Sunday, 5 July) at 4pm to lend their voices to the call to free Amos Yee. (See here.)
The teenager would have been in remand for a total of 55 days by the time of his next appearance in court on 6 July. It is expected that he will be sentenced then.
Here is the letter to PM Lee in full:
The Prime Minister
Mr Lee Hsien Loong
Republic of Singapore
CC: The Minister for Home Affairs
The Minister for Education
04 July 2015
Dear Prime Minister,
We are writing to register our deep concern as citizens and as parents, teachers and other adults who work with children and young people, over the State’s prosecution of Amos Yee. Besides the negative impact on his wellbeing and that of his family, the harsh treatment he has faced creates a negative environment for all younger members of our society.
We trust and hope that this statement of our concerns will be received in good faith – as a demonstration of our commitment to just and reasonable processes, and our shared concern with the State toward the safe-guarding and nurturing of our young.
In considering our letter, we also urge you to honour Singapore’s commitments under the Convention on the Rights of the Child to always act with the best interests of the child as a primary consideration in all actions undertaken by public institutions.
We are aware of the negative aspects of Amos’ communications. Nonetheless, we are troubled by the State’s harsh reactions to them, including the prosecution’s request for reformative training lasting at least 18 months.
Many of us have been working to nurture our young to take ownership of and participate in matters concerning the wellbeing of Singapore society. As reflected in changes in our education system and programmes targeted at young people in recent years, we want young Singaporeans to be empowered to articulate their thoughts and to present and defend their ideas, even if we disagree with them. As you said only this week, “You want people to stand up, not scrape and bow.”
To learn to conduct themselves, including to forge norms around mutual respect and civil disagreements, young people need to feel safe. Likewise, to continue to encourage our children or students to think creatively, to be active participants in their learning journeys, to enthusiastically stake their claims on social matters, we too have to be assured that such parenting and pedagogical practices will not bring them harm.
The prosecution of Amos Yee has already undone some of the progress we have witnessed among young people, and the prosecution’s call for reformative training threatens to undo even more. Growing up with access to rich sources of information as well as outlets for expression, young people have great potential for being engaged citizens. While we may not agree with everything that they say or do, we must ensure that they continue to feel safe in venturing out, and that making mistakes will not mean they will be punished in ways that compromise their well-being and/or stigmatise their futures.
We are deeply concerned by information circulating in social media that Amos has been shackled and subjected to treatment that is generally meant for mature offenders charged with more serious offences.
Moreover, whether or not Amos Yee has mental illness and/or autism, we are concerned that the use of physical restraint and institutionalisation in response to his alleged condition(s) will contribute to the stigmatisation of young people with mental illness and/or autism. Mental health and autism-related needs should be met on a welfare-centred basis, not treated as inherently threatening or violent.
As Amos’ sentencing is due to take place imminently, we ask that the State discharge its prosecutorial functions with caution, sensitivity and generosity in its position and treatment of the child.
While all persons, including young people and children, should learn to respect other members of society, prosecution and detention is not the best way to teach/learn. Witnessing the severe consequences faced by Amos and his parents, many young people will hold back from genuine engagement and exploration; parents, teachers, and other adults who work with our youth will be wary of encouraging young people to be courageous and unafraid of making mistakes. We can make every claim to encourage independence of thought and creativity, but if our actions reveal an inability to tolerate non-conformists, young people will view our exhortations to speak up as mere platitudes. This will be a deep loss not just for Amos and his family, but also for the future of Singapore society.
Adlina Maulod Denvy Lo Priscilla Chia Aishah Othman Dickson Su Rachel Zeng Alfian Bin Sa’at Elaine Ee Ranjana Raghunathan Alvin Tan Cheong Kheng Elia Corina Dorine Shelley Thio Andre Goh Eng Kai Er Sheena Kanwar Annamalai Kokila Parvathi Faeza Sirajudin Siew Kum Hong Audrey Wong Foo Jong Soon Siew Meng Ee Aw Yang Xun Georgina Lee Soh Seok Keim Shirley Bernard Lim Chee Guan Goh Li Sian Stephanie Chok Braema Mathi Indira Arumugam Sun Koh Boon Luang Carlyn Law Jialiang LIm Sudhir Vadaketh Catherine Lim Suat Hong Jolene Tan Tan Joo Hymn Chan Wei-Yin Jaclyn Jolovan Wham Tan Pin Pin Cheng Seow Wee Michael Kevin Chua Tan Tarn How Cheng U Wen Lena Lim Siauw Chong Teng Qian Xi Cherian George Little Ong Teo Liak Theng Chong Ja Ian Lau Seok Yee Teo You Yenn Chiong Ai Ni Irene Liew Kai Khiun Thiagarajan Kanaga Sabapathy Chng Nai Rui Lo Dening Thirunalan Sasitharan Chng WeiJie, Ivan Low Peter Cuthbert Thum Ping Tjin Choo Zheng Xi Lynn Lee Wee Sheila Moira nee Wilson Christina Lee Mandakini Arora Wong Pei Chi Colin Goh Yong Ping Malvina Tan Woon Tien Wei Constance Singam Ngiam Su-Lin Yogeswari Damien Chng Ong Keng Sen Zubaida Ali Dana Lam Yoke Kiew Prashant Somosundram