Hong Kong’s open letter to PM Lee: Dissent is Not Demented

Free Amos Yee Hong Kong

Open letter addressed to Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong from Hong Kong NGOs

Dear Mr. Lee, Dissent is Not Demented! Free Amos Yee! We would like to raise our grave concern regarding the arrest, trial, sentencing, and treatment under detention of Amos Yee, a sixteen-year-old, for uploading a YouTube video that supposedly made “offensive or wounding remarks against Christianity” and for “circulating obscene imagery.” The grounds for charging and finding Amos guilty on these charges are not only vague, they are wrong.

Furthermore, we find descriptions of the treatment of Amos Yee in remand at both the medical ward in Changi Prison and Remand Ward at the Institute of Mental Health (IMH) highly disturbing.

We call for the immediate release of Amos Yee.

Descriptions of Amos Yee’s treatment under remand indicate developed suicidal tendencies and there are fears for his safety. As a result, he was put on suicide watch and physically restrained in bed with limited access to bathroom facilities.

As part of the suicide watch, Amos is kept in a room where the lights are turned on for all twenty-four hours of the day, which prevents him from getting adequate rest. Moreover, Amos is warded with people with serious mental health problems. These conditions are terrifying and Amos’s mother, Mary Toh, indicated that he is scared of his surroundings.

He is now undergoing further court-ordered psychiatric evaluation for his suitability for “reformative training”, a process that inexplicably requires several weeks. Your government has not denied any of these descriptions.

Such treatment is clearly disproportionate to the act of uploading a video.

In addition, Amos received several threats to his physical safety and was attacked in public once, in front of the courts. Amos faced a threat of castration from a person affiliated with the grassroots organization of the political party that you lead, the People’s Action Party, and another threat from someone who offered to pay people in prison to rape him.

These are abhorrent in the civilized, global society Singapore aspires to be. However, the person who attacked Amos received a jail sentence that is shorter than the period of Amos’ remand, while the person threatening Amos with castration only received a stern warning from the police. The case of the person who wanted to pay someone to rape Amos in prison remains under investigation. These incidents create serious doubt about the consistency in the application of the law in Singapore, a jurisdiction which supposedly prides itself on the rule of law.

We further question the process under which Amos was charged and tried. None of the thirty-two people who lodged police reports against Amos’ video were called to testify during his trial. The harm and offence resulting from the video is also unclear. The video has been in circulation for several months. It has not caused any communal or religious strife, rioting or unrest in Singapore.

In fact, we would like to remind you that more than 4,500 of your own citizens, who identified themselves as Christians, signed a petition to your government indicating that they are not offended by Amos’ video.

It is not a crime for a person to express her or his opinion freely, especially when there is no harm or threat of harm involved; merely causing some offense or hurt feelings. We wish to remind you of your government’s international obligations, which should extend to Amos Yee. Your government is party to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, which calls for additional safeguards and protections for minors under the age of eighteen. Yet, your government decided to charge sixteen-year-old Amos as an adult and subject him to treatment that adults do not even face in your system, unless they are dangerous criminals.

You should also recall that Amos had to appear in handcuffs and leg shackles even before being placed in remand in the mental ward of Changi Prison and the Remand Ward of IMH. Such actions are not only abhorrent, they violate a binding international agreement which your government voluntarily acceded to. Amnesty International now regards Amos as a “Prisoner of Conscience”.

This year marks the fiftieth anniversary of Singapore’s independence. These violations of basic human rights and decency will be forever associated with Singapore’s fiftieth year of independence and part of your legacy as Prime Minister if you do not demonstrate restraint.

We urge you to release Amos Yee immediately. He has suffered enough.

社會民主連線 League of Social Democrats
左翼21 Left21
街坊工友服務處 Neighbourhood and Worker’s Service Centre
保衛香港自由聯盟 League in Defense of Hong Kong’s Freedoms
新婦女協進會 The Association for the advancement of Feminism
支聯會青年組 Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China Youth Group
香港家務工進步勞工工會 Progressive Labour Union
香港亞洲家務工工會聯會 Federation of Asian Domestic Workers Unions
亞洲移民人士聯盟 Asian Migrant Coordinating Body
民族發展亞洲中心 The Asian Center for the Progress of Peoples
亞洲人權委員會 Asian Human Rights Commission
香港職工會聯盟 Hong Kong confederation of Trade Unions
Filipino Migrant Workers Union