By Atossa Araxia Abrahamian
In March 2015, as Singaporeans were publicly mourning the death of their country’s revered founder, Lee Kuan Yew, a 16-year-old named Amos Yee was busy putting together a celebratory YouTube video entitled “Lee Kuan Yew Is Finally Dead!”
Addressing an imagined audience of millions in a pubescent falsetto, from the apartment he shared with his mother, the teen called Lee a megalomaniac, a dictator, and a fraud. He called the late president a “horrible person” and “awful leader”; later in his eight-minute rant, he compared Lee to Jesus Christ. The analogy was not meant to flatter: Yee is a committed internet atheist who looks up to the secularist writer Richard Dawkins, chafes at political correctness, and admits to particularly enjoying going after Islam. Yee ended his monologue wishing the dead politician “good riddance.”
The rant spread quickly. (It’s now been viewed over a million times.) Eager to extend his 15 minutes, Yee followed the video by posting a drawing of Lee having anal sex with former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.
Two days after he posted his video, he was arrested and thrown in jail under Singapore’s draconian speech laws. Over the next year and a half, his lawyers argue, he suffered sustained political persecution in his native country. After a slew of criminal charges, two trials, weeks in prison and jail, and a court order to stop posting on social media, Yee decided he’d had enough. On Dec. 16, 2016, he flew to Chicago and declared his intention to seek political asylum in the United States.
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