Monday, 27 March 2017

S'pore teen blogger granted US asylum

Ministry of Home Affairs Press Release

MHA's Comments on Amos Yee's US Asylum Application:
  1. In 2015, Amos Yee was charged for engaging in hate speech against Christians.
  2. He had said “Christians … are … power hungry and malicious but deceive others into thinking that they are compassionate and kind. Their impact and legacy will ultimately not last as more and more people find out that they are full of bull….. Similar to the Christian knowledge of the bible, and the work of a multitude of a priests.”
  3. He was convicted on the charge. He was also convicted on another charge for publishing an obscene image. He was sentenced to a total of four weeks imprisonment for these charges.
  4. In 2016, Yee was charged again for hate speech, this time against Muslims and Christians.
  5. He had said “the Islamics seem to have lots of sand in their vaginas too…. But don’t mind them, they do after all follow a sky wizard and a pedophile prophet. What in the world is a ‘moderate muslim’? A f*****g hypocrite that’s what!……. With all due respect, Christians, you can shove that faith up your ass. Faith! Faith! I’d be damned at this retardation of humanity. F**k you, Christian shits”
  6. He pleaded guilty to the charges, and was sentenced to six weeks imprisonment and a fine of $2000.
  7. He was represented by counsel in both the 2015 and 2016 proceedings.
  8. Yee had engaged in hate speech against Christians and Muslims.
  9. The US adopts a different standard, and allows some such hate speech under the rubric of freedom of speech.
  10. The US for example, in the name of freedom of speech, allows the burning of the Quran.
  11. Singapore takes a very different approach. Anyone who engages in hate speech or attempts to burn the Quran, Bible, or any religious text in Singapore, will be arrested and charged.
  12. The US Department of Homeland Security had opposed Yee’s asylum application, on the basis that Yee had been legitimately prosecuted.
  13. It is the prerogative of the US to take in such people who engage in hate speech. There are many more such people, around the world, who deliberately engage in hate speech, and who may be prosecuted. Some of them, will no doubt take note of the US approach, and consider applying for asylum in the US.

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DECISION OF THE IMMIGRATION JUDGE
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Amos Yee's asylum request granted by US judge

Amos Yee, the Singaporean blogger who was jailed twice here for hate speech has been granted asylum in the United States. Despite opposition by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, an immigration judge in Chicago decided that Amos Yee had been persecuted for his political opinions in Singapore and thus qualified as a political refugee. The 18 year old would now be able to live and work in America unless the U.S. Government appeals against it.

Judge Samuel Cole said that the prosecution of Amos Yee was tantamount to ‘persecution, detention and general maltreatmet by the Singapore authorities. He also said that Amos Yee was persecuted on account of his political opinions and called him a “young political dissident.”

Responding to the decision by the U.S. court, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) pointed out that the U.S. adopted a different standard from Singapore towards hate speech. MHA added that the U.S. “allows such hate speech under the rubric of freedom of speech” and doesn’t criminalise the burning of the Quran for example. Singapore, said MHA, adopts a different approach.

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Controversial Singaporean teen blogger granted asylum in the United States
An immigration official thought Yee risked serious persecution in Singapore

Amos Yee, a controversial Singaporean teen blogger, has been granted asylum within the United States. On social media, both critics and supporters of Yee appeared to be happy for him. Within his home country, Yee had become infamous over videos criticizing religion and politics, leading to arrests and media turmoil.

According to reports, Yee had come to the United States on a tourist visa, but told immigration officials that he was seeking refugee status. He had been detained in the country since he arrived at Chicago's O'Hare airport this past December. Reportedly, the United States Department of Homeland Security originally opposed Yee's application for asylum, but an immigration judge ruled in his favor on Friday, and Yee is expected to be released shortly. According to Yee’s legal team, he could be released as early as this following Monday.

Judge Samuel Cole released a thirteen-page decision that explained it was felt that Yee faced serious persecution in his native country, in part due to his political opinions, and it was feared that it would continue should he not be granted asylum.

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No more land of the free? Trump’s double standard on freedom of speech threatens America’s image

A March 24 decision by a US immigration court in Chicago to grant asylum to Amos Yee, an 18-year-old blogger from the tiny Asian city-state of Singapore, has lit up news media worldwide because it illuminates new dangers to freedoms of speech, not only in Singapore — which ranks near the bottom of every assessment of press and other freedoms — but even in the US, where Yee’s asylum was opposed by President Trump’s Department of Homeland Security.

DHS has 30 days to appeal the immigration court’s decision, and undoubtedly it’s deciding right now whether to do so. An appeal, which DHS would file through its Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency’s Office of Chief Counsel, could reinforce ICE’s image as Trump’s presidential security force. And it would bolster the authoritarian regime in Singapore that has beguiled tourists and foreign investors with gleaming skyscrapers, obedient migrant workers and efficient management that reflect only a small part of its much harder, darker reality.

Singapore is a laboratory for what the conservative Economist magazine condemned in 2012 as “crony capitalism” combined with nationalism, calling the country’s late founder and longtime prime minister Lee Kuan Yew “a tireless advocate of ‘Asian values,’ by which Lee meant a mixture of family values and authoritarianism” that hobbles democracy by running a society as if it were a business corporation.

related: The case of a teenage blogger from Singapore is chilling

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Teen Blogger Amos Yee, Who Criticized Singapore Government, Wins U.S. Asylum
A blogger from Singapore who was jailed for his online posts blasting his government was granted asylum to remain in the United States, an immigration judge ruled

Amos Yee, 18, has been detained by federal immigration authorities since December when he was taken into custody at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport. Attorneys said he could be released from a Wisconsin detention center as early as Monday.

Judge Samuel Cole issued a 13-page decision Friday, more than two weeks after Yee's closed-door hearing on the asylum application.

"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," Cole wrote.

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Singapore teen blogger granted US asylum over fears of political persecution
A US judge has granted asylum to Singaporean blogger Amos Yee, ruling that the 18-year-old qualified as a political refugee. Yee has been jailed twice for critical comments on religion and former leader Lee Kuan Yew

Chicago judge Samuel Cole issued a 13-page ruling on Friday qualifying teenage Singaporean blogger Amos Yee as a political refugee, granting him asylum in the US.

Yee's previous prosecution and imprisonment in Singapore "constitute(s) persecution on account of Yee's political opinions," Cole said. "The evidence presented at the hearing demonstrates Singapore's prosecution of Yee was a pretext to silence his political opinions critical of the Singapore government."

Yee had been in US immigration detention since last December, having been held by US authorities since arriving at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport. The teenage blogger had pleaded asylum, saying he had suffered persecution in native Singapore for his political opinions.

related: Amos Yee guilty verdict highlights free speech limits in Singapore

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Persecuted Singaporean Teen Vlogger Granted Asylum in US After Court Date

A teenager in Singapore, jailed for his pointed YouTube commentary criticizing the city-state's current governing administration, has been granted asylum in the United States.

Amos Yee, 18, a Youtube video blogger (vlogger), became wildly popular after his trenchant remarks on Singapore's governing policies. His commentaries became notorious for their humor, accuracy and relevance to Singaporeans' daily lives. His notoriety landed him in jail in the country, in spite of his age, and only a trip to the US and a plea to an immigration judge in Chicago made it possible for him to escape additional punishment.

After being allowed to travel to the United States in December 2016, Yee sought asylum, and was quickly detained by US federal immigration authorities. The Department of Homeland Security subsequently opposed his plea, citing a lack of evidence of political oppression.

related: Singapore Teen Gets 6 Weeks in Jail for ‘Intending to Wound’ God’s Feelings

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Teen Who Went Against Singapore Granted US Asylum

The teenager went on to spend 55 days in prison in 2015, after being found guilty of wounding religious feelings and posting a video and an obscene image online.

Yee had been detained by federal immigration authorities since December after being taken into custody after arriving at Chicago's O'Hare International airport seeking asylum, according to his attorney, Sandra Grossman.

Department of Homeland Security attorneys had opposed the asylum bid, saying Yee's case didn't qualify as persecution based on political beliefs.

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Singapore teen blogger Amos Yee granted US asylum

Singapore teen blogger Amos Yee, who was jailed twice in his homeland for posting political and religious criticism online, has been granted asylum in the United States.

Mr Yee, 18, has been detained in the US since he arrived at Chicago's O'Hare airport in December.

He came into the country on a tourist visa but told immigration officials he was seeking refuge.

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Teen Singapore Blogger Granted Asylum in US
Amos Yee openly criticized Singapore's leaders

A teenage blogger from Singapore whose online posts blasting his government landed him in jail was granted asylum to remain in the United States by an immigration judge in Chicago Friday. Amos Yee has been detained by federal immigration authorities since December, when he was taken into custody at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport. Attorneys say the 18-year-old could be released from a Wisconsin detention center as early as Monday, the AP reports. "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," Judge Samuel Cole wrote in his 13-page decision.

Yee left Singapore after being jailed for several weeks in 2015 and 2016. The atheist was accused of hurting the religious feelings of Muslims and Christians in the multiethnic city-state. However, many of his blog and social media posts contained criticism of Singapore's leaders.

Cole said testimony during Yee's hearing showed that while the Singapore government's stated reason for punishing him involved religion, "its real purpose was to stifle Yee's political speech." He said Yee's prison sentence was "unusually long and harsh" especially for his age. Homeland Security attorneys opposed the asylum bid, saying Yee's case didn't qualify as persecution based on political beliefs

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US judge grants asylum to Singapore teen blogger
Amos Yee, accused of insulting the island's late leader and religious groups, was jailed for weeks in 2015 and 2016

A Singaporean teenage blogger who was jailed twice for his online posts insulting his government was granted asylum to remain in the United States, an immigration judge in Chicago ruled.

Amos Yee was jailed in 2015 for four weeks for hurting the religious feelings of Christians and posting an obscene image as part of his attacks on the island's late leader Lee Kuan Yew - whose son Lee Hsien Loong is now the prime minister.

He was jailed again in 2016 for six weeks for insulting Muslims and Christians in a series of videos posted online, but critics claim the real reason was to silence him.

related: Obedience and uncertainty in Singapore

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Persecuted for political opinions, Singapore teen blogger wins asylum in US

A Chicago court has granted asylum to a teen blogger from Singapore, who has faced jail time on two occasions over his political commentary. Immigration Judge Samuel Cole, on Friday (24 March), ruled in favour of 18-year-old Amos Yee and said he qualified as a political refugee for being persecuted by the Singaporean government.

Yee had been detained by federal immigration authorities since December after being taken into custody after arriving at Chicago's O'Hare International airport seeking asylum, according to his attorney, Sandra Grossman. He will now be allowed to stay in the country if he chooses.

"The right to free speech is sacred, even when such speech is considered offensive," Grossman said according to Reuters. "The decision timely underscores the vital need for an independent judiciary in a functioning democracy."

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US gives asylum to Singapore teen dissident

Singaporean teen dissident Amos Yee has been granted asylum in the United States after a ruling that his prosecution and detention in the island state amounted to political persecution.

US immigration judge Samuel Cole stated in his judgment on Friday that the Singapore government’s prosecution of the 18-year-old blogger “was a pretext to silence his political opinions critical of the Singapore government.”

The decision represents the first time in years a Singaporean political dissident has applied for and received asylum in the West. The ruling, if not overturned by a US Department of Homeland Security appeal, could strain relations between the two strategic allies. The Singapore government has not yet responded publicly to the ruling.

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Singapore teen blogger Amos Yee granted US asylum
The United States granted asylum to teen blogger Amos Yee, who has been jailed twice in his native Singapore for critical views on religion and politics

The 18-year-old came to the United States in December under the visa waiver program, according to court documents.

Upon arrival, he expressed a fear of returning to Singapore ... Six weeks later, Yee requested asylum at his first appearance before an immigration judge," according to a ruling issued Friday.

Judge Samuel Cole described Yee as a "young political dissident" and approved his asylum. "His prosecution, detention and general maltreatment at the hands of Singapore authorities constitute persecution on account of Yee's political opinions," the ruling said.

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Singapore 'bad boy blogger' gets US asylum
Amos Yee, then 16, arrives for sentencing by a Singapore court after posting online videos criticising Lee Kuan Yew, Muslims and Christians. (File photo)

A blogger from Singapore jailed two years ago for making online video posts blasting his government was granted asylum to remain in the United States, an immigration judge ruled.

Amos Pang Sang Yee, 18, has been detained by federal immigration authorities since December when he was taken into custody at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport. Attorneys said he could be released from a Wisconsin detention centre as early as Monday. He flew from Singapore to the US specifically to seek asylum.

The US Department of Homeland Security opposed Yee's asylum application on the basis that Yee had been legitimately prosecuted. The department has 30 days, or until until April 24 to file an appeal.

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U.S. judge grants Singaporean blogger's asylum request
A U.S. immigration judge in Chicago on Friday granted asylum to a Singaporean blogger, saying he was persecuted for his political opinions in the Southeast Asian city-state

Amos Yee, 18, who had been jailed twice in Singapore, qualifies as a political refugee, according to a 13-page opinion by the U.S. immigration judge.

Yee is immediately eligible for release after having been held in U.S. immigration detention since Dec. 16, 2016, according to his attorney, Sandra Grossman, who is based in Bethesda, Maryland.

Judge Samuel Cole ruled Yee's prosecution, detention and maltreatment at the hands of the Singapore authorities "constitute(s) persecution on account of Yee's political opinions," and called him a "young political dissident."

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With asylum grant, did the US just reward hate speech?
The decision to grant asylum to an atheist blogger who spoke crudely of Muslims is sure to anger many, but it may also confirm that an important escape route for political dissidents is still open

When Singapore’s first prime minister, Lee Kuan Yew, passed away in 2015, 16-year-old Amos Yee made an obscenity-filled YouTube video denouncing the late leader as a “tyrant.” That and other postings earned him a four-week jail sentence for “wounding religious feelings and obscenity.” Not long after, he earned another six-week sentence for derogatory comments on Islam and Christianity.

On Friday, US Immigration Judge Samuel B. Cole granted asylum to Mr. Yee, now 18, who flew to Chicago in December. “His prosecution, detention, and general maltreatment at the hands of the Singapore authorities constitute persecution,” Judge Cole ruled. “Yee is a young political dissident, and his request for asylum is granted.”

Singapore’s Ministry of Home Affairs was none too pleased, saying, “Many more such people around the world, who deliberately engage in hate speech, ... will no doubt take note of the US approach and consider applying for asylum in the US.”

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‘Amos Yee’s imprisonment in Singapore was unjust’ – US-based S’porean activist explains why she helped teen blogger

In a Facebook post the US-based Singaporean activist, Melissa Chen, has shared why she decided to help teen blogger Amos Yee who has now been granted asylum in the United States of America.

Melissa said her convictions that Yee’s “imprisonment in Singapore was unjust, and that he deserves a fresh start to live the rest of his life without the fear of being punished by the full force of the state for mere thought crimes,” prompted her to help him.

In pointing to the judgement, which in part read: “it is clear that Yee’s prosecutions for wounding religious feelings and obscenity was just a pretext to silence his opinions,” Ms Chen said that the judge’s decision strengthened her love for the United States and what it truly stands for.

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Melissa Chen 22 hrs

It's public now: Amos Yee has been granted asylum in the United States. This is a decision that strengthens my love for this country and what it truly stands for. There's a reason that free speech is prioritized and enshrined as the First Amendment. In a 13-page document, the judge wrote "it is clear that Yee's prosecutions for wounding religious feelings and obscenity was just a pretext to silence his opinions."

Many have asked why I bothered in the first place. Obviously I think his imprisonment in Singapore was unjust, and that he deserves a fresh start to live the rest of his life without the fear of being punished by the full force of the state for mere thoughtcrimes. Amos is in many ways a lot braver than I am. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't at times afraid of being vocal about his case, simply because of the sheer amount of vitriol and even threats that came with being tried in the court of public opinion by nothing more than "guilt by association."

Of course it made me wonder: so much for that peaceful, harmonious society that the restrictive speech codes were supposed to foster in the first place. The amount of death and rape threats to Amos were appalling. I've actually collected reams of screenshots of these comments that were used as evidence.

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Full Coverage:
My First Hand Experience of Amos Yee’s Asylum Hearing
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Asylee Amos Yee may be eligible for various assistance to resettle in the USA
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Prerogative of the US to take in people who engage in hate speech
'Prerogative of the US' to take in people who engage in hate speech,says MHA
MHA: US adopts a different standard from Singapore towards hate speech
US immigration judge grants asylum to Singapore teen blogger
With asylum grant, did the US just reward hate speech?
Teen Blogger Amos Yee, Who Criticized Singapore Government, Wins US Asylum
Singapore teen blogger Amos Yee granted US asylum
Singapore 'bad boy blogger' gets US asylum
Singapore blogger Amos Yee granted asylum in US
Singaporean teen dissident granted US asylum
Singapore teenage blogger granted asylum in the US
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Singapore teen blogger granted asylum in US
US grants asylum to teenage Singaporean blogger
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Singapore teen blogger 'Amos Yee' granted US asylum
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Teen blogger Amos Yee granted US asylum
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Arrest of Amos Yee makes world news


GENEVA (4 October 2016) – “The lesson that somebody can be thrown in jail for their speech is exactly the wrong kind of message that any government should be sending to anybody, but especially to young people,” the United Nations Special Rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression, David Kaye, said today.

“The criminalisation of a broad range of legitimate, even if offensive, forms of expression is not the right tool for any State to pursue legitimate aims such as tolerance and the rights of others,” the expert said following the 29 September sentencing by a Singapore court teenage blogger Amos Yee to six weeks imprisonment for “wounding religious feelings”.

In a statement issued in August, Mr. Kaye noted that the international human rights law allows only serious and extreme instances of incitement to hatred to be prohibited as criminal offences, not other forms of expression, even if they are offensive, disturbing or shocking. “Threats of criminal action and lawsuits contribute to a culture of self-censorship, and hinder the development of an open and pluralistic environment where all forms of ideas and opinions should be debated and rebutted openly,” the Special Rapporteur highlighted.

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related:
The changing faces of Amos Yee
#freeAmosYee @ Hong Lim Park
The Amos Yee Saga
The Amos Yee affair
Amos Yee - Disagreeing graciously
Amos Yee - A Mother's Pain
Arrest of Amos Yee makes world news
13-year-old Amos Yee wins top film prizes
Convention on the Rights of the Child