A SINGAPORE teenager was charged yesterday over an online video he posted online criticising Christianity and the country’s recently deceased founding prime minister Lee Kuan Yew.
In the eight-minute clip, that was posted on YouTube, 16-year-old Amos Yee Pang Sang said that Lee Kuan Yew, Singapore’s first PM, and Jesus Christ were both “malicious,” among other disparaging comments.
He also said Singaporeans were scared to criticise Mr Lee.
The video has been taken off Yee’s YouTube channel, but copies continue to circulate on social media.
Mr Yee, who will be trialled as an adult despite his age, was arrested on Sunday, the same day the country held an elaborate state funeral for Lee, who died on 23 March aged 91.
He was charged yesterday with three offences – two for insulting Christianity and the late statesman, and another for allegedly transmitting online an “obscene representation,” according to court documents.
Mr Yee, who had previously made local headlines with his controversial and opinionated videos, could face jail time of up to three years if found guilty. He was freed on bail set at just under £10,000, but has been ordered to stop posting any content online pending the outcome of his case.
The video sparked a huge backlash from grieving Singaporeans and more than 20 police reports were lodged.
Singapore has strict hate speech laws strengthened under Mr Lee’s leadership.
Lee Kuan Yew was deeply respected by Singaporeans and his death last week prompted unprecedented public mourning.
He was widely seen as the architect of Singapore’s prosperity, but during his 31 years as prime minister he also clamped down on opponents, imposed strict social rules and tight political control.
Singapore’s hate speech laws are intended to ensure harmony between its multi-ethnic population and prevent a recurrence of the racial violence of its early years.
In a statement, deputy commissioner Tan Chye Hee said the police “take a stern view of acts that could threaten religious harmony in Singapore”.
Amos Yee was one of several people who went online to publicly criticise Mr Lee’s legacy – others include human rights activists and a prominent poet – but he is the only one to have been arrested.
A petition started by a Christian Singaporean has been launched, calling for his release.
Media rights group the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) also protested yesterday.
“We call on authorities to release Amos Yee immediately and to undertake reform of Singapore’s outdated laws restricting the media,” said CPJ’s Asia spokesman Bob Dietz.
Mr Yee has agreed not to post any material online while the case is in progress.
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