(Posted on Melissa Chen’s Facebook Jan 3, 2017)
Hi Ms. Chen, a Happy New Year to you.
Let me preface my critical statements below by saying I am no Amos Yee fan at this teenage stage of his life. But neither am I here with the intent to detract from your sleep; allow me however to offer you my two cents’ worth on his latest stunt.
1. As Amos begins his klutzy attempt for asylum in America, nolens volens you are now being viewed in the public’s eye — at least in my eye — to be his US self-appointed keeper. As more sketchy bits of info are surfacing relating to his ill-advised asylum gambit, your unmistakable role in his current predicament cannot be discounted. If his eventual asylum mission come a cropper which I believe will be more likely than not, willy-nilly, you would roundly be blamed for it. So for his and your sakes, good luck in that regard.
2. The touchstone of asylum-granting in the States hinges on (among other legal and political considerations) evidence of being a victim of well-founded persecutions or of threats to one’s life at the hands of the government at home. It would be ludicrous for any authority, US or otherwise, to equate what Amos experienced at home in the last 2 years with official persecution. Above all, it would set a needlessly nebulous precedent — unprecedentedly lowering the acceptance bar for asylum-seeking applicants — if he was determined deserving. I’ll be damned if the US Justice Department would regard the self-inflicted ordeal of this teenager to be anything remotely tantamount to official persecution when in fact he lived freely at home with his passport to travel and his unimpeded freedom to continually criticize his government with alacrity on the Internet while he was in Singapore.
3. Far be it from me to remind Amos there’s no such thing as no-holds-barred freedom of expression even in speech-rights-enshrined America — one may not scream fire in a theatre — but Amos evidently knows full well there’s this ‘harmony law’ back home that prohibits his profaning the holy and the sacred, such as his video display of simulated sexual penetration of the holy book. Amos wasn’t being persecuted by his government at home; he was duly prosecuted for criminal misdemeanors, for violating the ‘harmony law’, the application of which the majority at home does not hold to be unreasonable or draconian.
4. FWIW, Mr. Gopalan Nair, a self-imposed exiled lawyer living in California, is an unceasingly strident critic of Singapore’s government. He happened to be the one who rejected Amos’ initial request for free legal representation on his U.S. asylum bid. I find his assessment of Amos’ character defect to be relevant on his Dec. 23, 2016 blog, i.e., Mr. Nair’s reference to Amos’ insufferable arrogance and egotism. He was commenting to the effect that Amos’ overbearing, pathological narcissism never ceases to manifest itself in spades and that will not endear him to his asylum quest in America. So Melissa, I trust when it is all said and done, he would treat you with better respect than he did with Vincent Law — a Good Samaritan to Amos only to be falsely accused of sexual molestation simply because of Amos’ insatiable avidity for narcissistic media publicity. It is however my opinion that it isn’t too late to advise him to do an about-face and return home to serve and complete his National Service right of passage to adulthood instead of shirking it and gambling his hope on the spin of the asylum wheel which may take 3 to 4 years, putting him literally in a state of suspended limbo in no-man’s land.
5. Finally, as an aside below, FYI, Amos is no advocate of free speech — he is the antithesis of it. He selectively censored what he deemed unpalatable in his own neighborhood. Case in point, below was a censorious post of mine on his Facebook that he expurgated with glee.
(An October 4 2016 post on Amos Yee’s Facebook which he deleted with dispatch.)
Amos, as a teenager, you might have gotten a raw deal on your first experimental offense in 2015 but consider yourself very lucky to escape with merely 6 weeks in the slammer for your second recidivist offense — you got a lenient judge.
In my book, I figure a month of Sundays would be fit and proper to learn you an unforgettable lesson never again to desecrate certain matters held to be sacred and holy. And quit playing the kid card before the public for sympathy.
Rather than grizzling at the authority for punishing a ‘kid’ hell-bent on being perverse in his offense to the point of possibly incurring some death warrant/fatwa on his own head without his even realizing it, you should be mighty grateful to the authority for restoring just in time some semblance of sanity and order in your teen life, lest you continue to lurch uncontrollably towards the abyss of self-destruction through reckless experimentations in juvie tomfoolery dressed in the guise of ‘free expression’.
Jan. 4, 2017
Melissa Chen Thanks for your note, Lester. Though I wish you put it in its proper thread, not one about divine penis enlargement.
(A follow-up post on Melissa Chen’s Facebook, Jan 6, 2017)
Earlier here I posted the reasons I believe Amos’ asylum gamble would most likely end up being rejected by the DOJ; I would now further opine that he might even flunk his elementary threshold screening by the DHS and not be accepted on sufferance to proceed with his asylum application. What next would be a litany of years-long, touch-and-go appeals should he decide to fight it all the way. Melissa, you have a big heart but your compassion is misguided… you could be looking at years of babysitting while he labors under the illusion of asylum. You are a busy multitasker as it is without this gratuitous imposition; I trust your personal post-graduate pursuit will not suffer because of it.
But looking at it from the bright side, this obstreperous teenage iconoclast without a cause still has a home base to which to return — unlike some hapless soi-disant ‘free-speech’ heroes who are stuck in a cubbyhole in some foreign Embassy or left languishing in some cold, foreboding polar-bear country. But first things first: he needs to man up, eat crow and complete his NS obligation to his nation. As for the rest, if your association with him has inspired him in any way to emulate what you do so very well as a free-spirited social media blogger, it would still be a long process of continued learning and growing on his part to sublimate his impish precocious impulses into level-headed adult conversation which could happen but many years from now at a minimum.
(As posted on Melissa Chen’s Facebook on 1/8/2017)
Melissa, with your permission, let me re-post my response to Ron Murphy’s comment to my previous remark…
Ron Murphy wrote: Lester Kok, “certain matters held to be sacred and holy” is where the problem lies. It’s easy to make a claim to hold some matters so sacred and holy that they are beyond criticism and dissent, and then use that to shut down political dissent – it’s a poliitcal tool of oppression, and that’s what Amos has been fighting, however immaturely. I’m not disputing some are sincere in those beliefs and feelings, but are the matters they believe in so fragile they won’t hold up to verbal abuse? Are they so fragile they must be protected at the expense of genuine freedom, at the risk of oppression?
Mr. Murphy in order to have a meaningful discourse over speech rights, we need to put it in the proper context. It is the Amos-Singapore context here we are talking about, and not some First Amendment context or some aspirational UN human rights context. I shall come back to the Amos question later but first some stipulation for this speech-rights discussion is in order, and see if you beg to differ: that all countries (the advanced/modern democracies no less) have in place disparate forms of speech restrictions of varying degrees — a fact not lost on Edward Snowden himself prior to his seeking asylum in Russia. Punitive statutes ranging from the archaic lèse majesté to the more recent anti- hate-speech and -blasphemy acts (including against belittling the dead and/or denying the Holocaust) are in the books. A quick Google query will spit out names like, Canada, Germany, France amongst OECD countries by the dozen that set limits to free speech at home. Likewise in Singapore a similar version prevails, dubbed the ‘harmony law’ which Amos deliberately set himself up to violate under the guise of free speech advocacy.
For discussion here, let’s look at some related free-speech controversies. Salman Rushdie who was born into a family of Muslim faith, knew full well his satiric Satanic Verses would incur the homicidal wrath of certain Islamist elements not known for their kindred sense of humor especially when it comes to irreverent characterizations of their Prophet. Yet, Rushdie saw fit as novelist to wield his literary license to offend. This he has done in the name of the freedom of expression but at an estimated UK-taxpayer cost of a million per year in police protection afforded him from 1989 to 2000 against the fatwa on his life… which I don’t believe is being lifted even to this day as the Ayatollah who issued it had passed on. Not to sound sardonic here on such official wisdom: from where Amos hails, the authority there would bid fair to rather spend its resources a tad more prudently; hence harmony laws are in play there. As for the needless tragedy at Charlie Hebdo, regrettably, the French authority did not deploy sufficient resources to protect their so-called artistic freedom of expression resulting in the ultimate sacrifice of 12 of its staff.
Yes, Mr. Murphy, unfortunately, even in this day and age, there are matters held to be holy and sacred that are best left unmolested. And while on the subject of the Prophet, respectful criticism of him has not been a problem. Scottish orientalist scholar W. Montgomery Watt an early critic of Islam in the 50s and 60s with a dozen or so critical books on the Prophet, did never personally experience threat to his life because of it. Parenthetically, it is my humble opinion that any such critical, reformative evaluations of the Islamic religion striving to fit into the 21st century, be best left to inside members of the faith of which there are some constructive voices at work but not enough like Ms Irshad Manji of Canada.
Back to Amos. Now, to pass off his simulated orgasmic act of bonking the Quran as some audacious, exploratory exercise in free speech, is, not to put too fine a point on it, bullcrap of the first water — he was not trying to raise free speech rights there but raise hob for his own self-serving, publicity-seeking, solipsistic gratification, however puerile that may have been. The due intervention by the authority at home probably saved the boy’s life; he would in all likelihood be dead by now in today’s highly prickly atmosphere had he continued escalating his blasphemy unchecked on the Internet as he would were he in the States. Nevertheless, since his release at home he has never stopped chiding his government on his blog; the authority has now learned to take it in stride after its initial rather awkward misstep in overreaction. So what do you call that if not his freedom of expression!
For his sake (and Melissa’s), let’s hope Amos is not spitting in the wind just now. But from the look of his latest post here, it appears he’s strategizing to go for broke that could well backfire in spades. His odyssey from later teen years to adulthood would be long and tortuous.
(Posted on Melissa Chen’s blog Jan.17, 2017)
About Amos’ asylum gamble…
Missy, as Amos Yee’s hearing before an asylum judge draws near — Jan. 30, which by then would make it longer than any of the sentences he has served at home — a modicum of reality must have sunk in by now for Amos and company.
Right out of the gate in my previous posts on your page, I’ve been heavily critical of your well-meaning but quixotic quest on his behalf, tilting at persecutory windmills. You sorely misread his character and his circumstance. Your idealism coupled with your lack of profundity in how the DHS-DOJ world wags, have led you to bite off more than you can chew. Under the law and order banner of the Trump Administration, Amos will not be regarded sympathetically: a wayward teenager whose life was never threatened at home, tries to shirk his National Service by slipping into America under false pretense; it’s incredible what ill advice he was given prior to taking the gamble.
It’s most unlikely he would even be released on bond; because of all the American cities he chose to land at, Illinois has the greatest concentration of Muslims by state in the country — if only they found out what he did to profane their Prophet and their holy book, he would be lynched on the street. Are you then poised to babysit him for years and provide him the kind of private protection as evidenced by Aayam Hirshi Ali for example?
Imagine if DOJ decide to grant Amos his wishes, it would open the floodgate to a deluge of petulant, juvenile Amos-like asylum copycats. Incidentally, never mind about Trump’s rhetoric on being tough against aliens, just take a look at the historical record of his right-hand man Jeff Sessions on immigration — not promising indeed. http://www.ontheissues.org/International/Jeff_Sessions_Immigration.htm
Last not least, I can hardly believe you allowed him to make a bigger fool of himself than he already is by his recent personal post on your page. To wit, characterizing his jailhouse chow as ‘sumptuous’ is a backhanded compliment for his host who by the way spends $164 per day of taxpayers’ money to house and feed him.
That piece of his manifestly smacks of rambling of a manic-depressive. For his sake, he needs to be told the truth about how well his crowdfunding is going in America.
The longer he tries to alienate himself from his home base, the harder it would be for him to be ‘rehabilitated’ at home. You’ve a bright future ahead yourself, please do not ruin his any more than what it already is. Following the month-end hearing, kindly advise him to pick up the phone in the detention facility and contact his Embassy via the toll-free 800 number and take it from there.
P.S. Sadly, with the latest news of his Twitter account being suspended, that’s another nail in his asylum coffin; this will not sit well with making his case before the asylum adjudicator. BTW, the move you have correctly surmised is political but could well also be for evidence preservation per orders from the top — as Amos’ denouement approaches and with negative publicity mounting, Twitter does not wish to be seen as a handmaiden of the whimsies of a religious blasphemer, hence his account suspension. Missy, be careful yourself dear.
1/18/17 Melissa Chen wrote:
He’s a Sikh Indian journalist by the name of Prabhjot Singh who is the editor-in-chief of the Gabbar Times (link below), a news portal that exposes government corruption in India where general elections are poised to take place in about a month. Due to his coverage and investigative reporting, Mr. Singh has suffered violent attacks from government insiders (Amos said he saw scars on him).
Prabjot is now seeking a sponsor in the US so that at his next hearing (February 1), he can be released. The immigration courts want to know that he has some place to go before releasing him. Anywhere in the US is okay. He is 30 years old, married and has family in India; speaks English and can drive; and has “Tech Engineer qualifications” from Punjab. If you or someone you know can help Prabhjot out, please somehow signal it to me. He also needs an immigration attorney and can pay for legal counsel.
They’ve developed a friendship having lived in confined quarters and often exchanged ideas about online activism and journalism. When Prabjot revealed that he doesn’t quite know how to “make things popular on the internet” or “on social media,” Amos told him that he’ll collaborate and help him when they’re both released.
Amos fell into a contemplative mood as he talked about how, owing to their large populations, China and India are two of the largest purveyors of human rights abuses that don’t receive adequate media coverage and attention. He told me that he’s going to look into it when he gets out.
1/18/17 Lester responded: Missy, it’s not my intention to rain on Amos’ parade here but allow me to call it as I see it. Pardon me then, my skepticism about this latest, abrupt presentation of a transmogrified, touchy-feely Amos. Just ask some of those principal players who had crossed his path and got shafted in the last 2 years — Vincent Law who volunteered to bail him out when his own parents wouldn’t, was falsely and maliciously maligned by Amos to have molested him; Alfred Dodwell, his initial pro bono attorney who turned his back on Amos’ request for a second round of pro bono representation; the scores of initially sympathetic donors who answered to his brazen appeals for crowdfunding only to subsequently learn he had frittered away their goodwill on ducks and drakes.
However, this is not to say that at this latter transformative stage of his adolescent personhood, there isn’t room for growth and change — but that will take years of conscious effort of trying on his part to rectify his inborn, serious flaw of Narcissism.
Though I have posted why I very much doubt he would be bonded out on Jan. 30, I do hope he gets released into your care and learn from you up-close in person what it takes to be a successful social media advocate that wins the respect of his/her readers.
Amos will not be in my care after his release. He has a host in a state far from where I live and once he’s out and has internet access again I will no longer be his mouthpiece.
He will be responsible for his own views and how he presents to the world. After all, he only just turned 18.
1/18/17 Melissa Chen wrote: Amos wasn’t “advised” to come here on Dec 16 and he wasn’t advised at all when he made the decision to show up in Chicago. It was a surprise for everyone and a scramble on my part. I simply had no idea he was leaving or had left Singapore until I got the call from his host who was waiting at the airport when Amos arrived.
So I’m not sure where you’re getting your info from but suffice to say, it’s really not accurate.
1/19/17 Lester replied:
I got the ‘advice’ scoop from the horse’s mouth: you posted the following, quote —
(12/23/16) After landing at O’hare the CBP (Customs and Border Protection) officer flagged him for secondary inspection where they seized his electronic devices and found text messages between Amos and me, clear evidence of us making arrangements for his bid for political asylum in the US. … The officers asked Amos if he was here to seek political asylum and with the proof in their hands, Amos was compelled to tell the truth.
(12/25/16) Seeing how HRF (Human Rights Foundation) works has been eye-opening for me. I attended the San Francisco Freedom Forum in the summer (of 2016) which they organized, and worked with them on Amos Yee‘s political asylum bid. They are efficient, effective and above all, incredibly compassionate.
Having followed you for a while now, I have little reason to doubt your sincerity in championing his cause; but I shall surely reserve judgement for the rest of the coterie, mainly because I do not know them enough to form an honest opinion as yet. Perhaps someday when a book is written (which I doubt you are planning on one), we will get to see the devil in the details.
I shall reiterate my previous point here: your idealism in the above matter has caused you to open a can of worms you can’t tie up that easily. You did say (on Jan 3) in one of your responses that if things don’t work out you will be nothing loath to bear the blame. Well Missy, you are now in for a penny, in for a pound — your responsibility, moral or otherwise, for this 18-year-old does not just end on Jan 30 even if he was bonded out. It now behooves you as his ‘keeper’ to see him through thick and thin till a final resolution is reached which may take a goodish number of years.
Or are you saying nobody advised him to flee Singapore for the US *on Dec 16*?
After languishing in American jail for now a total of 24 days, according to my pro bono human rights lawyer, Sandra Grossman (who’s been doing a tireless and absolutely fantastic job on my case, by the way), she was in contact with the immigration officers and was hoping that after they heard that the nature of my case, would release me in a few days. However, that did not happen. I just got a letter that said that my court date (not release day) is scheduled for 30th January. Yes, you heard that right, fucking 30th January. What the fuck?!
That means I will literally have spent a total of 50 days in American jail, that is longer than anything that the Singaporean government has sentenced me for, for criticizing religion and the government! Someone escaped his country to prevent being sent to jail for exercising his free speech and has to spend time in jail in the country that he escaped to that is longer than if he was imprisoned for exercising his free speech from the country he was escaping! If he rescinds his political asylum claim, he is deported back to the country he is trying to escape from and gets permanently banned from coming to the US.
What the fuck? What the fuck?! This is bullshit! This is fucking bullshit! And the worst part is nobody really knows about these kinds of awful immigration policies existed in America. Fortunately, because I have a high profile case, we’re finally highlighting these wretched policies. Tens of thousands of people have already suffered from these policies and we didn’t know about it. What the hell? What the fuck? This is like the premise of some dark comedy novel. And yet, here it is, happening in real life. This needs to end. We have to speak up about this garbage. We can start by demanding my immediate release from American jail. Fuck the oppressive court date. Lawyers who have been passive slaves to the status quo would probably say that speaking against the set court date would be futile. I don’t give two fucks.
After observing these authoritarians for 2 years, the very important lesson I’ve learned is that no matter how much they make it seem like the people aren’t able to change a law or affect a judge’s decision, they do, they just want you to think they don’t in the hope that the people will think their actions are worthless so they won’t fight against the tyranny of the status quo. Friends, do not be fooled, we must stand together and fight.
We’re going to push for something that’s hard to get, we’re going to fight, and even if we fail to achieve it, we would have contributed to creating the people who will succeed in achieving it in the future. This is the positive mind set everyone should hold, and has been held by every revolutionary, good or bad in history, from Ghandi to Einstein to MLK Jr to Jesus Christ.
So please, share this post, and write your words of resistance against this oppression in the comments section below, and sign this change.org petition calling for my release. The people that may be forgotten will sow the seeds of progress that generations after will bear fruit fom. We will not stand idly by as this tyranny is inflicted upon our fellow people. Rise my fellow friends, and may the authoritarians tremble at our strengths.
1/28/17 Lester Kok posted on Melissa Chen’s wall:
Missy wrote: Latest update: Amos Yee goes to court in two day’s time for his master calendar hearing. He shouldn’t be affected by Trump’s immigration policies as a non-brown asylum-seeker from a visa-waiver country.
1. Your above assessment is inaccurate. Each year, the President of the United States sends a proposal to the Congress for the maximum number of refugees to be admitted into the country for the upcoming fiscal year, as specified under section 207(e) (1)-(7) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (per Wikipedia). You are then badly mistaken if you assume the asylee ceiling under the Trump administration would be increased rather than the opposite — hence, in a larger sense, every asylum-seeker’s chance will be affected.
2. As for Amos’ specifics, his will be a lot clearer come tomorrow’s EOIR court hearing (via video-conferencing at his McHenry holding facility). Namely, did USCIS officials already grant him a prima facie favorable determination as relates to credible fear of persecution at home? I’ve previously offered my take why he would not even pass that very first hurdle of credible fear interview. And I stand by that because if he had passed that test, we would be hearing all about it from his attorney Sandra Grossman for obvious PR reasons.
3. So what is this MCH hearing for him tomorrow? The USCIS officers could have ‘paroled’ him earlier on OR but they didn’t, hence he is still in detention. The DOJ judge will decide tomorrow if he could be released on bond while he presses on with his very time-consuming appeals. It could be resolved in the next 6 months but if he waives his right to an ‘expedited removal’ adjudication, it could consume up to 4-5 years of interminable bureaucratic toing and froing — only 58 Immigration Courts in place to handle over 100K applications annually (with a backlog of over 500K in toto).
4. For his sake (and yours) I hope I am wide off the mark in my reading of his current predicament. Good luck!
Feb. 7 Lester Kok replied: You wrote: ‘Melissa is right to do her best for a fellow countryman in whose plight she recognises her own…’ ; and for emphasis: ‘in whose plight she recognizes her own’.
Mike, unfortunately you are wrong on that count; she has lost my respect for her re her present Machiavellian attitude towards the boy and here’s why…
For context, here’s a recapture of the Jan. 31st exchange between Melissa and myself: (see above)
Now Mike, have you wondered just how much it takes to keep his spirits up telephonically while he rots in jail waiting for his chimerical moment in court — $5, $10 a week? … which could easily be credited to his inmate account to call out if she truly recognized his plight as her own. (After all, his current crowdfunding has about $3K to his name. Perhaps such arrangement is too much to ask of his keeper now that she has decided to totally abandon ship … you tell me.)
In a Jan. 3 post here I said: ‘I trust when it is all said and done, he would treat you with better respect than he did with Vincent Law.’ Mark my words, the way it is going here, there’s little doubt he will ‘pay’ her back in spades.
Feb. 25, 2017 Lester Kok wrote:
Setting a precedent for ‘amosization’ (courtesy of Amos Yee and company) — an altogether becoming figure of speech is thus born…
The herp derp that is the hare-brained asylum gambit of Amos Yee does beggar imagination however you slice it … I’ve previously characterized it here as the gang that simply couldn’t shoot straight. Verily, Amos and his gang committed such monumental comedy of errors to begin with on his asylum quest; they will be hard put to live it down for the rest of their lives. Such unmitigated comedic buffoonery in the class of the 3-Stooges merits a fresh metonym for its originality per se: i.e., henceforth to ‘amosize’ an enterprise/endeavor means to render it fubar even before it has a chance to get off the ground. Amos and his gang duly deserve the dubious honor for this neologized metaphor for having shot themselves in the foot right off the gate.
Having thus far ‘amosized’ his asylum bid, what’s in store for him next this March 7? … which will probably be the day of pronouncement of his relief or deportation by Immigration Judge Samuel Cole. And now with this latest Feb. scuttlebutt circulating online over his puerile jailhouse spat with Muslim fellow inmates that resulted in his time in solitary confinement as penalty… So if anything then, his such jailhouse acting up will surely militate against his chance for even a sympathetic hearing. Above all, it is the utter misreading by Amos and his U.S. gang of intimate advisors on the legal nuances and complexity in asylum application in the era of Trumpism no less, that makes his doomed asylum enterprise so truly tragicomic. This March 7, it would be official and be as clear as day that Amos and company have embarked on a fool’s errand in the States. Any protracted attempts at the appeals process would only destine this teen to spending his 21st birthday in a tank, snubbed to his cell, endlessly commiserating in sunless pod with other alien kindred spirits (hopefully non-Muslim ones if he can find them).
As with the Singapore authority, it has cannily kept a low profile; in fact without so much as a peep from any official panjandrum at home over this asylum brouhaha. But make no mistake about the woes awaiting him once the extradition is completed back home… First things first: for his AWOL bid, the court at home will likely mete out some quod time to him — as though for him to be reminded of further insult to his already humiliating injury. (Incidentally, the local penalty for gazetted NS defaulters is a jail term of up to 3 years and/or a fine of $5K.) After which, he’ll be lateraled off to boot camp for a 2-year spine-stiffening stint in National Service. But that would indeed be camp sweet liberty for him, considering the precious amount of self-induced lost of freedom sustained in the McHenry County sterile hoosegow he once deliriously portrayed as being ‘heaven’.
Alas, it’s all part and parcel of Amos’ painful and tortuous journey of gradually becoming an adult. But I don’t see him simply mizzling into obscurity because of it. Quite the contrary, I anticipate a prospective Amos reboot, a 2.0 iteration of himself if you will — hopefully by then, a chastened, humbled, more mature persona in evidence starting de novo; that however would not likely be evident anytime soon after being dealt such a thoroughgoing, ego-crushing, self-perpetuating Waterloo at home and abroad; only time will tell how well he takes his lumps.
Meantime, let me re-post here again a poem recently penned for the occasion that Melissa Chen deleted on her site.