Amos Yee says he looks forward to making new videos after being granted asylum in US

Amos Yee, 18, standing outside the United Sates Citizenship and Immigration Services offices after his release from detention in Chicago, Illinois, US, on Sept 26, 2017.
Amos Yee, 18, standing outside the United Sates Citizenship and Immigration Services offices after his release from detention in Chicago, Illinois, US, on Sept 26, 2017.PHOTO: REUTERS

NEW YORK - Singaporean Amos Yee, fresh out of nine months' detention in American jails after being granted asylum by the US authorities on Tuesday (Sept 26), says he plans to make more videos, expanding his horizons to include the United States, and then move to bigger projects.

Asked if he planned to study, the 18-year-old said: "Hell, no."

"The plan is to make more and more videos. I came here to escape the horrible anti-free speech laws in Singapore. Now I can get back to work, get back to my life," he told The Straits Times.

"I am thinking I'll do the video thing and the Internet activism on Facebook and YouTube for as long as I'm satisfied," he said.

But he added: "I don't think I'll be satisfied just being like a YouTuber even if I become like really famous."

"I also want to broaden my horizon in more collaborative and huge projects like film and video games. Maybe I'll do the videos for a couple of years and then after that branch out into bigger projects," he said over the phone from Chicago.

"Maybe like a comedy show or a drama," he continued. "I'm still very interested in making more political videos. I have many ideas for comedy."

Mr Yee arrived in Chicago last December seeking political asylum, and was routinely detained.

The detention became prolonged when although he was granted asylum, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) contested that and for the duration of the legal proceedings he was kept in detention despite his lawyer's attempts to get him released.

On Tuesday, the Board of Immigration Appeals dismissed the DHS's appeal opposing asylum.

"The board wholeheartedly agreed with the decision of the Honorable Immigration Judge Samuel Cole, who on March 24, 2017, granted Amos Yee asylum based on persecution by the Singapore government because of Yee's political beliefs," his attorneys Grossman Law said in a statement.

Asked what his time in an American jail had been like, Mr Yee thought for a moment and said: "It was manageable. It was far better than the experience in the Singapore jail."

He spent his time talking to people, playing chess and reading books, he said.

Mr Yee left Singapore for Chicago last December, a day before he was to report for a medical examination ahead of enlistment into national service, and sought political asylum in the United States.

He made headlines when he was charged in Singapore in 2015 for engaging in hate speech against Christians in a video he posted on YouTube, and for publishing an obscene image of former prime minister Lee Kuan Yew. He was convicted and given a four-week jail sentence.

Last year, he was charged again for hate speech, having deliberately posted comments on the Internet - in videos and blog posts - that were derogatory of Christianity and Islam. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to six weeks' imprisonment and a $2,000 fine.

Asked how he planned to support himself, he said: "That's the big mystery.

"Many people have offered to set up a fund raiser for me to get me kick started. Obviously you can't rely on that forever, so what I'm thinking is a direct source of income will probably be from YouTube, that's the only thing I can think of - and probably raise money based on donations" through Internet sites like Patreon.

"Fortunately I don't have to pay for rent," he said. "Theodore Gray, a famous scientist, has offered me a place."

Mr Theodore Gray is a well-known science writer and co-founded the Web and cloud computing firm Wolfram Research.

Mr Yee's case will now be remanded to the Immigration Court in Chicago to allow DHS the opportunity to complete or update any pending security investigations or examinations, Ms Sandra Grossman, pro bono counsel to Mr Yee at Grossman Law, said in a statement.

 

While a date has not been set for entry of the final order, it is likely to be soon, especially given the amount of time Mr Yee has been detained at US taxpayers' expense, it said.

"The possibility also remains for a DHS appeal, though this is unlikely given the Board's unambiguous decision," the statement said.