Singapore’s arrest of a 16-year-old YouTuber is all you need to know about Lee Kuan Yew’s legacy

After uploading a video criticising the late leader, Amos Yee found out what freedom really looks like in Singapore

Published on Independent Voices on 31 March 2015.

While Singapore mourned the death of its founding father, there was one teenager who wasn’t so upset. “Lee Kuan Yew is dead, finally,” proclaimed 16-year-old Amos Yee. “Why has hasn’t anyone said, ‘f**k yeah, the guy is dead’?”

In a YouTube video uploaded last Friday, the Singaporean teenager criticised Lee Kuan Yew (also known as LKY), who ruled the country for over three decades and passed away last week at the age of 91, and called him “a horrible person”.

On his personal website, Amos also uploaded an amateur drawingof LKY having sex with Margaret Thatcher, who was one of his many admirers. “I encourage more fellow Singaporeans who have any artistic abilities [to do the same],” he wrote.

But Amos soon found out what freedom of expression looks like in Singapore. After at least 20 police complaints were made, his video was removed, his website censored and he was arrested.

He has now been released on bail (which was set at £9,800), but is facing multiple criminal charges, including “wounding religious feelings” by describing Jesus and LKY as both “power hungry and malicious”. He faces a fine and up to three years in jail if found guilty.

While the world has indulged itself with endless eulogies to LKY over the last week, Amos’s disappearance has been brushed aside. Leaders of the so-called “free world” found neither words nor time for an unknown teenager who, according to a state-controlled newspaper, “made insensitive remarks”.

No-one can deny that LKY was a unique statesman who that took Singapore “from Third World to First,” to borrow a phrase from his book. He stood between international giants like the US and China, yet Singapore under his stewardship had always punched above its weight, winning LKY admirers from Beijing to Washington.

However, as Amos points out in his video, one of LKY’s “biggest flaws” was that he “honestly thought that money and status equated to happiness”. He led Singapore “to be one of the richest countries in the world – and one of the most depressed.”

Amos is not alone in his grievances with LKY. Just over a year ago, another YouTuber called Steph Micayle uploaded a video called“Why I’m not proud to be Singaporean”. In it, she criticised the country’s strict censorship laws, and called its people “small minded and submissive”, before vowing to leave the country and never return. Many people shared her sentiments, and her video. But it’s only now with Amos Yee that the world is able to see just how far Singapore is willing to go in its quest to silence its critics.

Many hailed LKY’s transformation of Singapore as a miracle. But would really be miraculous is if they stop threatening 16-year-old vloggers like Amos Yee with jail. That would be a start. And then, once they’ve realised they have nothing to fear, maybe they can build a country where prosperity and freedom go hand-in-hand, and aren’t seen as being mutually exclusive.



One thought on “Singapore’s arrest of a 16-year-old YouTuber is all you need to know about Lee Kuan Yew’s legacy

  1. the rule of the law states that if someone commits an offence, he will have to face the punishment. no one will threaten him with jail if he did not break any law. amos is accused of breaking the law because of his remarks over christianity, not for his remarks on lee kuan yew.

    any keyboard warrior who have never stepped into singapore will never understand how religious and racial harmony is taken very seriously here. temples, mosque and churches stood side by side. chinese who pray in a chinese temple will pay a simple respect to the indian temple when they walk pass. in school and at work, we work with, reports to and manage people of different races without even a slight bother about their race. such is the level of religious and racial harmony we dearly treasure. laws are enact and enforced to specifically defend these harmony. singapore is built on the basis of law and order. and it is not mere lip service. the country grew over the past 50 years based on the stability and safety that a lawful country provides.

    steph micayle was never threaten with jail, simply because what she say did not break the law, while amos’ own mother made a police report against him for the video above!

    singaporeans have long realised we have nothing to fear. in the recent years, you can say anything you want, but it has to be the truth. if anyone thinks freedom equals spreading rumours and telling lies, insulting anyone who is different from you, or breaking the law, then wouldnt the country will become a barbaric place?


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