Amos Yee’s Asylum Victory May Be Short-lived

(Posted March 26 on Melissa Chen’s FB as a reply to her posting about news of Amos being granted initial asylum.)

Rising like a phoenix from the ashes … but don’t break out the champagne yet!

1. The magnitude of the seismic shock related to Judge Cole’s decision to grant refugee status to Amos is on a par with the 2016 election victory shocker of Donald Trump. That wasn’t just my sense of how badly his asylum bid had seemingly gone before Friday’s bombshell; Amos Yee himself even supposed it so.  Just 6 days prior, he had in fact given up on his American coterie for support and instead turned to what was left of his home base for help — it was as if a last-ditch bugle call for some imagined cavalry from home to ride to his rescue.   So congrats to him (and to you Melissa) for this abrupt reversal of fortune. But his greater challenges/problems are just around the corner…

2. If by early next week Amos remains incarcerated, we can figure an appeal against his asylum to be in the works. With the judicial half of his asylum equation completed, next comes the other half of political considerations. Two points are of note here: i) Amos is no fan of Donald Trump a fact he has previously made known soon after Trump’s election. But what must be not so amusing to the officials of the Department of Homeland Security of late was the fact that their feathers were ruffled by a teenage alien inmate under their detention excoriating them via his Facebook for tardiness and ineptitude, as well as perfidy, i.e., for going back on their words to release him while his application is pending. ii) All along, the Singapore authority has been cannily reticent about Amos’ asylum brouhaha. Even after Friday’s stunner, it has not commented much on TV except incidentally on the evening news from its various official media outlets. Come next week when Washington reopens for business, we’ll have a better idea if its Embassy decide to engage in diplomatic démarche. I would be surprised if the Singapore government simply let this slide without kicking up a fuss; Amos’ successful bid for asylum would be a demerit on Prime Minister Lee’s tenure.

3. In granting Amos asylum based on his discretionary reading of the evidence, Judge Cole has set a very low-bar precedent for political refugee admission — a policy the Trump Admin no doubt would take a dim view of. It is well noting that Judge Cole’s asylum ruling in favor of Amos hinges exclusively on the ‘official mistakes’ by the Singapore authority in the 4-week sentence meted out to Amos in 2015 (that eventually added up to a 50-plus-day ordeal of incarceration for him). The Immigration Judge however totally overlooked the subsequently more serious 2016 offense of blasphemy Amos wilfully and knowingly perpetrated. I term it ‘official mistakes’ because I do concur with Judge Cole’s legitimate criticism of the 2015 sentence punishment of Amos as being ‘too long and harsh’ for a youthful first-time non-violent offender; it did warrant my dispatching an uncomplimentary letter to his then presiding Judge at home. [ ] But Judge Cole in applying this 4-week sentence of incarceration as the basis to merit asylum consideration, has swung the floodgates wide open to potential abuses by future asylum-seekers.

4. You fretted: ‘The amount of death and rape threats to Amos were appalling. I’ve actually collected reams of screenshots of these comments that were used as evidence.’  End quote. I have no doubt that among them were Muslims he offended. Once he is free, the onus is now on you, his keeper, to afford him the kind of protection he may need as evidenced by Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Salmon Rushdie — they both live under personal protection after receiving a fatwa of death for profaning the Islamic religion. At least Amos’ personal safety in Singapore was not an issue. But can you now vouch for the same for him in America without bodyguard, a question I would respectfully ply you?

5. As a final note here, in your preceding poignantly written cri de cœur for total, unmolested freedom of expression and thought for humankind, you injected the stirring locution of Steinbeck to make your case. I would surely not quarrel with such eloquence. Instead, FWIW, let me conclude here by drawing some very obvious contradistinction between Western (American in this case) and Eastern traditions/cultures — or as LKY would put it the ingrained distinct ‘Asian values’ that set fellow Asians apart from their Western counterparts. For instance: while Judge Cole would, if he were adjudicating, rule in favor of the Constitutional right of Westboro Baptist Church members to picket at funerals with hateful signs that read ‘God hates fags’, in Singapore or in the East for that matter, publicly spitting or swearing (symbolically or otherwise) at a deceased during his/her obsequies is a no-no. Amos did not understand nor his parents taught him such funeral decorum, consequently he was punished for it. Certainly, for a Western judge who exhibited difficulty in writing and spelling Asian names correctly — at least 3 nominally related errors are evident in his published legal opinion in the above case, i.e., ‘Long’, ‘Ngreng’ and ‘Yew’, which should be correctly presented respectively as ‘Loong’, ‘Ngerng’ and ‘Lee’ as in Lee Kuan Yew — one shouldn’t expect this judge to duly appreciate the deeply held local tradition of reverence in the East for the dead during mourning. And while fellow American Andres Serrano had his artistic right guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution to dip a crucifix in his own urine and displayed it as art in his 1987 controversial New York exhibition, such display would surely be deemed sacrilegious in the East and rightly expected to be banned. The so-called self-evident notion of all men being created equal, endowed by their Creator with unalienable rights to absolute freedom of speech, that is an imported foreign construct as alien to the East as the Easter Bunny. But good luck to Amos and you; you will need it.


  1. Imo amos should be given asylum but i also want to see him suffer. Imagine his dismay if he is sent back. He will be depressed . Imagine amos serving ns and doing all the shit jobs…lolz.

    1. FRESH, thanks for yr comment. ‘amos should be given asylum…’, but according to whom? Donald Trump? There are some 250 IJs (Immigration Judges) and Judge Cole is about as liberal an IJ as they come; so Amos did luck out on that one but he can’t be batting one thousand again as he is now squared up against the house. As for his future ‘depression’ — you should read my post re the 5 Grief Stages of Amos — it is all part of the process of his maturation, unfortunately.


3/26/17 Ron Woolrich posted on Melissa Chen’s Facebook:  The immigration judge overlooked the “more serious” charge of blasphemy under Singapore law because blasphemy is completely protected speech under the U.S. First Amendment and no American court would deport a petitioner for asylum solely because of such a charge in a foreign court. It would be the same if someone had been charged with witchcraft in Saudi Arabia. There’s no such thing as witchcraft in modern American jurisprudence just as there’s no such thing as criminal blasphemy.
Lester Kok responded:  Thank you for yr comment. Mr. Woolrich, you’re almost correct about ‘there’s no such thing as criminal blasphemy’ in modern American jurisprudence. The last I check, there are 6 to 7 U.S. states that still carry blasphemy laws on the books. So in theory if you live in one of those, you still can be charged for such offense but will nonetheless prevail over the state law in the end after running the punishing legal gauntlet as it reaches the apex court of the land. 
Soon I shall be blogging an article about why Judge Cole’s ruling on Amos’s asylum will be vacated on appeal, unless otherwise preempted by news of its fait accompli which could be as early as tomorrow; but I very much doubt Amos will be released so soon. When I first read the Judge’s legal opinion, I was little more than 50% certain it would be appealed but now I’m highly confident it would be challenged after reading thru it again; furthermore, the politics on the ground as I see it calls for such a move.
So without getting too long-winded here, allow me just quickly elaborate on my previous use of the term ‘blasphemy’ as regards Amos’ offense. No, in Singapore there isn’t any ‘blasphemy’ law either; it is colloquially termed ‘communal harmony laws’ which Amos had been charged under. I took license in the use of that term as a shorthand for religious insult/vilification/hate speech etc. The nexus of the argument against Judge Cole’s ruling is 2-fold: does Singapore have a sovereign basis to exercise such laws for the greater good of the community and, crucially, is Amos’ life in jeopardy of continued persecution as he claims because of his purported political dissent. The short answers are yes and no respectively… stay tuned for the rest:-)
Ron Woolrich resplied — Lester Kok: Thanks for the reply. I am familiar with American jurisprudence (as I hold a J.D.) but not Singapore law, so I took the “blasphemy” charge at face value. Anyway, those anti-blasphemy laws in the U.S. are state laws and relics of an earlier era of the law. There is no federal anti-blasphemy law, and, were these laws challenged in federal court (which has supremacy over state courts), they would likely be found to be unconstitutional under the First Amendment. There are also no “communal harmony” restrictions on free speech in the U.S. or laws against religious disparagement as these would also be unconstitutional as against First Amendment protections. Although such prosecutions would be legal in Singapore, no U.S. court would recognize them as valid under U.S. law.
Lester Kok to Ron Woolrich ‘…you still can be charged for such offense but will invariably prevail (over local statutes) in the end after running the punishing legal gauntlet as it reaches the apex court of the land.’ End quote. Pardon my uncharacteristic oversight in clarity; if I did not state it as clearly as was intended, I now stand annotated in parenthesis in the above. We were making the same point actually. Much like the passé sodomy laws that still exist in some states, overzealous local authority can still prefer blasphemy charges against one but they would be rendered unenforceable on appeal due to the supremacy clause as you previously cited. Separately, I shall wait till tomorrow morning, and if I don’t hear any news update of him being sprung in Juneau, I shall put my piece online entitled: 10 Reasons Why Amos’ Asylum Victory Will Be Short-lived. You have a good day.

(March 26, 2017, from TOC, The Online Citizen)

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    To cut to the chase, if PAP hadn’t prosecuted Amos, this would not have blown out of proportion… Less one chance for foreigners to pick on SG and or laugh at our stupidity to take WA Amos so seriously…

    If those who filed the report and government would have left him alone, SG won’t be a mockery on international forefront… So many glaring examples of our leaders making mistakes that affect the entire of SG including reputation and you don’t go after these people but choose to spend time going after a 乳臭未干 teenager? Lolxxx


    Cher Ling, you are half right about not throwing the book at him in the first place. But that would only be a band-aid approach to the problem (as American jargon goes). Looking at it now with hindsight Amos would sooner or later run afoul of the law because he was/is going thru a transitional phase of fearless exploration aided and abetted by the excesses of influence from the Net. What I objected to was the uncalled-for jail sentence on first-time, non-violent juvenile miscreant. I would not be surprised to see a law named after him someday; thanks to him, the gov. has learnt much from it. But his trouble is far from over as I’ll be posting an article soon on why his asylum victory is going to be short-lived… you will read that here.


Come on, be serious. Amos’s victory is hardly a molecule in the vast ocean of demerit that is PM Lee’s tenure.

  • Pik, you can’t be more mistaken on this count … to characterize it as a ‘molecule’ of a blemish on the gov. This news isn’t some hangnail of sorts to them; if they lose this fight, it will stick like a wart to their forehead for eternity. Prime Minister Lee will double down and order his troops to go to the mat on it; Embassy in Washington D.C. will be in full battle order … just you watch.



9 thoughts on “Amos Yee’s Asylum Victory May Be Short-lived

  1. The judge who presided on the case has stated in his affidavit, about political issues in Sin city, and believe me it is nothing nice…


  2. The one thing i dont get about this case is that in america there are laws against offending people. You cannot berate a person with racial slurs. there once was a case of a blk person who couldnt take any more abusive insults and he killed the person berating him. the courts found him not guilty of murder.

    there was another case where the parent of some kids waiting at a bus stop was mocking the way a handicap kid walks and he was arrested and charged.

    so what i dont get is this idea that america protects all forms of speech. there are many cases where a person gets punished by law for what they say or their mockery.


    1. Hi Mike, thanks for yr response. I’m not familiar with the 2 instances you alluded to, so I can’t comment on those. But in general, Americans are favored with First Amendment rights which empower them to near total freedom of expression except in extreme cases involving national security as in the treason/espionage case of Edward Snowden who will be prosecuted upon his return for sure. Were Amos an American, he would be free to express what he did in his vids without legal consequences, just as the Floridian pastor Terry Jones was constitutionally empowered to protest and burn the Koran in 2011. But the sad truth is they would do that at their own peril. Terry Jones now walks and sleeps with a sidearm to protect himself. No, Singapore is just too small a nation to allow everyone to freely insult each other as they please … and then let them arm themselves as a matter of course for protection.:-)


  3. His views are half boiled and groundless, someone who has taken from his mom and dad, society, without a single contribution to anyone. He chose to rant and spread half truths rather than to work for his living.
    I’m not sure if he would go through the “5 griefs”, someone with such a huge ego would simply walk away from any “lessons” and continue to rant, until his supporters realise this chap thinks he is superior than any other. Until then, he would have free rein in USA.


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