Singaporean Blogger Amos Yee has been freed from a Chicago Immigration and Customs Enforcement office on Tuesday (US time) after a federal appeals court upheld the decision of an immigration judge to grant him asylum based on the grounds of persecution by the Singapore government.

After Yee was earlier detained in December last year when he arrived at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport, declaring as a visitor to the country as he had applied for political asylum in US with the help of a US non-government organisation before he flew over to the country, a Chicago immigration judge concluded in March this year that the Singapore government persecuted Yee on account of his political opinion, and that Yee is deserving of asylum as a matter of discretion.

Though Yee was eligible for release but U.S. Department of Homeland Security filed an appeal against the decision to grant Yee asylum. This resulted him to be further detained by US authorities till this Tuesday.

In the appeals court’s judgement, the judges wrote,

“We agree with the judge that the cumulative harm in this case rose to the level of persecution, which entitles the applicant to a presumption of a well-founded fear, that has not been rebutted. Because we discern no clear error in the Immigration Judge’s findings of fact, and no basis to disturb conclusions of law supporting the grant of asylum, we remand the record for any necessary background and security investigations.”


Back in 2015, Yee hit international headlines just a day after the funeral of Lee Kuan Yew in 2015 by getting arrested for making disparaging remarks on the late founding Prime Minister and couple of references to religion in a Youtube video. He was subsequently convicted of charges put against him and given a four-week jail sentence. Just last year, Yee was again charged in court for allegedly having deliberately posted comments on the Internet that were derogatory of Christianity and Islam. He was sentenced to six weeks’ imprisonment and a $2,000 fine.

The immigration judge, Samuel B. Cole had noted in his judgement that Yee’s social media posts in Singapore, though undoubtedly offensive to many, do not create any basis to deny asylum as a matter of discretion. He also noted that Yee has met his burden of showing that he suffered past persecution on account of his political opinion and has a well-founded fear of future persecution in Singapore.

Though U.S. Department of Homeland Security actively opposed Yee’s application for asylum, claiming that the Singapore government legitimately prosecuted Yee under laws of general applicability. Judge Cole disagreed. In his 13-page written decision, Judge Cole stated that “it is clear” that the Singapore government’s criminal prosecution of Yee for “wounding religious feelings” and “obscenity” was “just a pretext to silence his opinions.” He stated that the political persecution was a criminal prosecution by the Singapore government and was therefore inflicted by the government.

Relying on the substantial evidence that Yee’s pro bono counsel submitted to the Court, Judge Cole wrote that the Singapore government controls the mainstream media and “has enacted legislation to constrain” dissent on social media.

The judge detailed the Singapore government’s routine use of sedition laws to arrest and silence online dissidents. Judge Cole concluded that Yee’s 2015 arrest and convictions clearly constituted past persecution on account of Yee’s political opinion.

Furthermore, Judge Cole argues that Yee’s treatment at the hands of the Singapore government rises to the level of persecution. Focusing on his first conviction when Tee was 16 years old, he was arrested at least twice, interrogated, prosecuted, placed on curfew, barred from social media, ordered to take down his social media posts, and finally imprisoned. In total, Yee was incarcerated 55 days between his time in a prison and a mental health facility.

According to Buzzfeed, Yee’s lawyer Sandra Grossman said that she was unaware of Yee’s immediate plans after his release. Per US law, he will be able to apply for a green card after being in the country for more than a year. Grossman also said it was unlikely that the government would take the case to a higher court to oppose Yee’s asylum. “I can imagine that he looks forward to getting back online and expressing his views on a variety of topics including the government of Singapore, his detention in the United States, and possibly any other topic that he wants to discuss,” she said.

Freelance journalist Kirsten Han wrote on her Facebook page about Yee telling her that he is still a little in shock, because there had been no prior warning that he would be released. After over nine months in detention, he says he’s really missed making videos and being on social media, and that the thing he’s “most eager to do right now is go on the Internet.”

Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
You May Also Like

Record investments = Negative wage growth?

by Leong Sze Hian I refer to the report “Singapore achieved record…

中学历就业率67巴仙 年长打工族学新技能应对职场变化

2017年,超过1千100名专业、经理、执行员和技师(PMET)群体,透过人力资源部就业支援计划(CSP)与高薪职缺匹配,当中有者失业超过12个月,其中有500人年龄超过50岁,人数高于2016年。 人力资源部在过去两年加速发展专业转职计划(PCP),协助中年PMET群体增加技能,寻求更好的薪资待遇和升迁集会。目前在30项领域中,已设立超过100个专业转职课程,比去年翻了一倍。 包含内部核数师、财务审计专业或顾问的新转职课程也在今年推出。人资部将继续监督和根据市场需求,拓展课程容量或增设合适的新课程。 人力资源部部长杨莉明,针对淡滨尼集选区国会议员钟丽慧的提问,在国会作上述书面回答。钟丽慧询及,政府推行“应变与提升计划”(Adapt and Grow)的效应;二,政府是否有意继续增设和拓展更多领域下的专业转职计划,令更多雇员受惠;以及就业支援计划对于高龄PMET群体的触及成效。 保障年长者就业 工党非选区议员吴佩松则提问,对于加强年长者终身就职能力的非营利组织,人资部提供何种辅助,杨莉明则回答,年长者要留在相关领域职场,则需与时并进适应时代和技能的变化。对于持续教育与培训(CET)课程,政府都有提供各方面拨款协助。 例如在未来技能中途职业强化津贴下,有受教育部和新加坡未来技能发展局(SSG)承认的课程,包括非营利组织如曹氏基金华美培训学院提供的劳动力技能认证(WSQ)技能课程。 政府倡议提供年长者具建设性的职场工作。新加坡国家雇主联合会(SNEF)则是政府WorkPro计划的主要伙伴,鼓励雇主重新调整工作流程,让年长者也能在职场上发挥生产力。 人资部也有直接的措施,帮助年长打工族提升就业能力。雇主聘请55岁以上、月薪不超过4千元的员工,可获政府特别就业津贴(SEC)补贴。在“应变与提升计划”中,人资部支援年长打工族寻找新工作,专业转职计划和就业支援计划等,则提供相应的培训和辅导,协助他们解决职能与薪水错配的问题。 与政府合作的非营利组织都能获得政府直接或间接的拨款协助。例如,政府支持飞跃家庭服务中心,透过旗下长者教育部门协助乐龄人士终身学习。…

HOME highlights issues faced by migrant domestic workers due to implementation of circuit-breaker

While the public is well aware of the multiple issues faced by…

Singapore will not spiral downward with a two-party system

~by: Douglas See~ What a non-Singaporean thinks of a two-party system would…