A Singaporean blogger who is seeking political asylum in the United States said on Friday he regretted inflammatory posts that landed him in jail twice in his home country.
18-year-old Amos Yee, who is currently detained in Illinois, said that videos he filmed insulting Singapore’s late prime minister and various religions were in bad taste.
“I told you, it is hate speech, it is overly rude, it isn’t good activism,” Yee said by telephone from the McHenry County Adult Correctional Facility in Illinois. “I completely regret making those videos.”
Yee’s posts, and subsequent trials and convictions in Singapore, have stirred debate in the conservative city-state over censorship and free speech. His trials were watched closely by rights groups as well as the United Nations.
Last year, Yee was convicted on charges of harassment and insulting a religious group over comments he made about former Singaporean Premier Lee Kuan Yew and Christians soon after Lee’s death. His sentence amounted to four weeks in jail.
In September, Yee was sentenced to six weeks in jail after pleading guilty to posting comments on the internet critical of Christianity and Islam.
Yee arrived at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport on December 16 and told U.S. Customs officials he was seeking political asylum.
The blogger said that he wanted to live in Illinois and has no plans to return to Singapore, a Southeast Asian city-state that has compulsory military service for males, which Yee said he would not take part in.
Yee should have his first hearing in front of a judge within two weeks, according to his attorney, Sandra Grossman. Yee has had no contact with the Singaporean government since arriving, he said.
While highly critical of actions of the U.S. government abroad, particularly drone strikes in the Middle East, Yee said the country provided the best platform for spreading his political message of anarchist communism and ending private property and wage labor.
“It is not going to the best country. This is about going to the country that most effectively promotes my political philosophy of anarchical communism,” Yee said.