Good news: Singapore blogger is granted asylum in the US
Yee, 18, was detained in the US when 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.
Following Friday’s ruling, he is expected to be released shortly.
The US Department of Homeland Security opposed Yee’s asylum application, but immigration judge Samuel Cole ruled in the teenager’s favour.
In a Facebook post dated February 22, Yee slammed the US authorities’ decision to hold him in custody until his asylum application was heard.
Due to the recent executive orders issued by Donald J Trump against migrants, the higher-ups in Department of Homeland Security have broadly interpreted Trump’s orders to mean issuing actions that stop any migrants from being able to go out of jail (on bail or parole) until the entire asylum process in court has completed its course (even if these refugees are escaping oppressive anti-free speech laws from tyrannical dictatorships) to prevent ‘exploitation of the system’.
Cole released a 13-page decision, which said Yee faced persecution in Singapore for his political opinions.
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. Accordingly, this court grants his application for asylum.
The outspoken teen became one of Singapore’s most controversial figures, where he is viewed with exasperation but also a measure of sympathy. Singapore is known for its strict rules on free speech, especially when it comes to race and religion – rules which the US judge said have been used by the authorities to constrain dissent, but which many in the city-state support.
Following Yee’s explosive remarks about the country’s deeply-revered late leader Lee Kuan Yew and Christianity, he continued to fall foul of the law by breaching bail conditions and making further critical comments about religion that were deemed to be “blasphemous”.
Even by leaving Singapore he has committed an offence, as he is avoiding mandatory military conscription. While in US detention he had run into trouble for making remarks about Islam, according to his representatives.
Yee’s lawyer, Sandra Grossman, said he could be released as early as today (Monday).
In statement, Grossman applauded the judge’s decision and said:
The right to free speech is sacred, even when such speech is considered offensive.
In September 2016, the teenager was given a six-week prison sentence in Singapore after being found guilty of “wounding religious feelings”.
He had posted a video critical of Christianity and Islam.
He was also jailed by a Singapore court for four weeks in 2015, for criticising Christians and for posting a video about the country’s former Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew. His video, posted on YouTube days after the PM’s death, compared the widely-respected founding father of Singapore to Jesus Christ.
Later, he posted a crude cartoon depicting Lee Kuan Yew having sex with Margaret Thatcher, who was one of his allies.
The posts provoked various police complaints, and Mr Yee was reported to have received violent threats.
Hat tip: BarrieJohn