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Amos Yee calls himself 'poster boy for free speech' as he seeks asylum in the US

NEW YORK — Americans who identify with President-elect Donald Trump’s message of anti-political correctness may have a new, unlikely ally: A Singaporean teenager who is seeking asylum in the United States and calls himself a “poster boy for free speech”.

Amos Yee calls himself 'poster boy for free speech' as he seeks asylum in the US

Singaporean blogger Amos Yee. TODAY file photo

NEW YORK — Americans who identify with President-elect Donald Trump’s message of anti-political correctness may have a new, unlikely ally: A Singaporean teenager who is seeking asylum in the United States and calls himself a “poster boy for free speech”.

The Singaporean, Amos Yee, 18, is a former child actor turned prominent online dissident who fled to the United States last week after being convicted in his own country of “wounding the religious feelings” of Christians and Muslims. Yee was apprehended by US immigration officials at O’Hare Airport in Chicago and is in custody.

The plea he plans to make to US authorities, that he was punished for insensitive speech, echoes an argument that Mr Trump made repeatedly throughout his campaign — that political correctness was damaging to the country, and that it had prevented government officials from adequately addressing issues of national security, race and religion.

“We’re all dealing with these issues of, ‘What are the lines, what are the boundaries, what’s permissible?’” said Ms Sandra Grossman, an immigration lawyer in Bethesda, Maryland, who is representing Yee in his asylum case. She said she believed the outcome “may say a lot about how we treat our own freedom of expression cases.”

Yee drew the attention of the Singaporean authorities in 2015, at a sensitive time for the country. Mr Lee Kuan Yew, the former prime minister who had served from 1959, when Singapore gained self-government from the British, until 1990, had recently died. His death prompted more than a quarter of the nation’s 5.5 million residents to pay their respects at public mourning centers.

Yee absorbed the news differently, posting a video on YouTube titled “Lee Kuan Yew Is Finally Dead!” In it, he called the prime minister “undoubtedly totalitarian,” and likened him to Jesus, calling them both “power hungry and malicious” figures. Yee was convicted of speaking out against Christians, and served one month in jail.

Then, this year, Yee took to YouTube again, to criticise Islam and Christianity for scripture that he said supported murder and belittled women. Yee was arrested again and sentenced to six weeks in confinement.

Yee, who is being held at an immigration detention center in Illinois as he awaits the next steps in his asylum case, said in a phone interview that he believed free speech should be “unbridled” worldwide, and that he hoped to continue criticising religion “without the fear of being sent to jail”. THE NEW YORK TIMES

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