Singapore police arrest 17-year-old over critical Lee Kuan Yew video

    Amos Yee uploaded eight-minute video Lee Kuan Yew Is Finally Dead! and claimed others were scared to speak out against late founding prime minister

    Kirsten Han in Singapore | Monday 30 March 2015 09.15 BST

    Police in Singapore have arrested a 17-year-old who posted a video highly critical of Singapore’s late founding prime minister, Lee Kuan Yew, according to local reports.

    Numerous police reports had been lodged against Amos Yee since he first uploaded the eight-minute video, Lee Kuan Yew Is Finally Dead!, on 27 March.

    “Lee Kuan Yew was a horrible person, because everyone is scared,” Yee said in the video. “Everyone is afraid if they say something like that, they might get into trouble … which, give Lee Kuan Yew credit, that was primarily the impact of his legacy. But I’m not afraid.”

    He also likened Lee to Jesus Christ, saying that they “are both power-hungry and malicious but deceive others into thinking they are both compassionate and kind”.

    Police confirmed on Monday to the Guardian that a 17-year-old male Singaporean had been arrested.

    Lawyer Chia Boon Teck, who lodged one of the police reports against Yee, said: “The individual had said many things against Mr Lee and the government that are defamatory under the penal code as well as in violation of the sedition act. His utterances against Christians also amounted to a ‘deliberate intent to wound religious feelings’ under the penal code

    “There is a limit to freedom of speech. If the line separating freedom and offence is crossed, the person will have to face the consequences,” he added. Yee has since taken down the video, but it has been re-uploaded by others on YouTube.

    Lee died in the early hours of 23 March from severe pneumonia in hospital, where he was on mechanical ventilation in an intensive care unit.

    Lee’s death led to a seven-day period of national mourning, with some standing in hours-long queues to pay their respects while his body was lying in state.

    The mourning period has caused controversy – while many laud him for his contributions to building Singapore into a wealthy city state, others have criticised his rule as one where the media was controlled and dissent was crushed.

    For some, the lodging of police reports and subsequent arrest of Yee is a sign that the suppression of free speech during Lee’s time in power has continued as a part of governance in Singapore.

    Independent filmmaker Martyn See – who has seen his work banned in Singapore – told the Guardian: “The People’s Action party has only known to counter dissent by crushing it. It’s in the DNA of all authoritarian systems.

    “But I do not foresee this as sustainable, as its current leaders will find it hard to justify such a knuckleduster approach without the moral authority of a Lee Kuan Yew.”