On March 23, 2015, Singapore was struck with shocking news. Former Prime Minister and “Father of Singapore” Lee Kuan Yew had passed away, and it seemed the entire city’s population was grieving. Except perhaps one person: Amos Yee.
Amos Yee is a 16-year-old Singaporean YouTuber who rose to fame, or infamy, by releasing a video titled “Lee Kuan Yew is finally dead!” The video hailed Lee Kuan Yew’s death and criticized Christianity. He was also accused earlier of posting an obscene graphic image of Mr. Lee and Mrs. Margaret Thatcher, a former Prime Minister of Britain.
He was arrested shortly after the video was released with three charges under Section 298 and Section 292(1)(a) of the Penal Code, as well as Section 4(1)(b) of the Protection from Harassment Act. On Tuesday, May 12, he was found guilty on two of the charges after a two-day trial the previous week.
International students who are often accustomed to freedom of expression in their home countries are largely unaware of Singapore’s strict rules against certain types of speech. In order to help international students understand Singapore’s laws better, a clarification of each law that Yee broke is clarified below.
Amos Yee is Singaporean, but what if an international student in Singapore were to express similar ideas? Albert Teo, an attorney here in Singapore, said, “Generally, the provisions still apply whether you are a foreigner or not. Crime committed in Singapore is all that matters.”
Another source from a government agency has said, “[It’s] impossible to speculate on this, but the government of Singapore has a track record of applying its laws consistently.”
Apparently, it matters little whether you’re an expat – there will be no special treatment. It is up to all students living in Singapore to be aware of laws and the consequences for breaking them so they can make informed decisions about their own speech and actions.