An international human rights group has urged the US to grant Singapore youth Amos Yee asylum, after the latter was reportedly detained in Chicago over immigration-related matters.
Singapore's Straits Times yesterday reported Yee, who gained infamy for criticising his government on the social media, was detained upon arrival at Chicago's O'Hare Airport on Dec 16.
"The Singapore government has subjected Amos Yee to a sustained pattern of persecution, including intimidation, arrest and imprisonment, for publicly expressing his views on politics and religion, and severely criticising the government’s leaders, including the late Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew.
“Since his release from prison, Yee has faced intensive government surveillance and monitoring of his public and on-line comments,” said Human Rights Watch (HRW) deputy Asia director Phil Robertson.
“Amos Yee is the sort of classic political dissident that the UN refugee convention was designed to protect, and HRW hopes the US will recognize his asylum claim,” he said in a statement today.
The 18-year-old first made headlines in March 2015 when he was arrested over a rant on YouTube criticising both Christianity and Singapore’s first prime minister, Lee Kuan Yew, shortly after the latter's death.
Yee again received a six-week jail term on Sept 29 after he pleaded guilty to six charges of wounding the religious feelings of Muslims and Christians, through comments made on social media.
'Pattern of persecution'
Straits Times cited Hong Kong's South China Morning Post quoting US-based Singaporean activist Melissa Chen as saying Yee had entered the US on a tourist visa, but was detained following a secondary screening in which he told immigration officers he was seeking asylum.
It also reported Yee's mother Mary Toh confirming the matter on Facebook and that the teenager's lawyers are assisting in the request for asylum.
When contacted by Straits Times, Toh declined to comment.
Robertson claimed Yee had been subjected to “a sustained pattern of persecution, including intimidation, arrest and imprisonment, for publicly expressing his views on politics and religion” and for criticising the Singaporean government and the late former premier Lee.
“Since his release from prison, Yee has faced intensive government surveillance and monitoring of his public and on-line comments,” he claimed.
Robertson argued Yee is seeking protection in the US because of the Singapore government’s actions towards him.