Amos Yee: An exception to the rule of power distance in Singapore

Amos Yee is a 17 year old student from Singapore who regularly posts videos in which he satirizes the customs and practices of his home country. His most recent videoblog titled 'Lee Kuan Yew is finally dead' was a step too far for local authorities. Lee Kuan Yew is the former prime minister of Singapore who died last April. Yew was a very strict ruler who promoted the Asian values theory, meaning that individual freedoms and human rights are overvalued Western preoccupations, and that authoritarian regimes are ok provided they bring wealth and order. This notion fits in with Singapore's high power distance values. But then there is a young person who challenges it all. A person who refuses to be silenced. In his 18 minute blog, Amos called Yew a horrible person, a terrible leader who ruled as a dictator. The man controlled the media, abused the legal system to floor opponents and created a country in which unhappiness and inequality rule, people make the longest working days in the world and nobody dares to speak up. The public prosecutor immediately pressed charges againt Yee and he was arrested.


Public reactions to Amos blog and arrest were mixed. Many people publically stood up for Amos and consider him a hero. But he and his parents also received threats and hatemail. Amos refused to take back his words and was sentenced for obscenities and insulting religion. Not for the blog about Yew though. The prosecutor has asked for a conditional punishment, provided that Amos behaves friom now on. He would benefit from resocialisation according to the court. Well, chances that the spirit gets back into the bottle are slim with Amos. He seems like a spirit who won't be tamed. And what's more his parents back him completely, which is also very rare in Singapore where people are generally reverent of authorities. So we can only wonder whether this proverbial exception to power distance, accepting inequality and respecting authority without questioning it, will be tamed eventually. Or will he be the one man who changes a nation? The future will tell us.


A. Hoefnagels | 16-05-15 | 17:03 | Permanent Link