A court in Singapore on Tuesday ordered teenage blogger Amos Yee, who criticised the country’s former leader Lee Kwan-yew in a video following Lee’s death in March, to undergo a mental health assessment.

This comes as the United Nations Human Rights Office for Southeast Asia on Monday issued a statement calling for Yee’s immediate release. The statement said authorities’ treatment of the 16-year-old, who has been locked up in the Changi Prison, seems “disproportionate and inappropriate in terms of the international protections for freedom of expression and opinion.”

Yee uploaded a video blasting Lee Kwan-yew, the nation’s founding prime minister, as being a “dictator” and turning Singapore into a “rich but depressed” country in March following Lee’s death. In the video, Yee compared Lee to Jesus, saying Christians are “power hungry and malicious but deceive others into thinking they are compassionate and kind.”

YouTube video

Yee was convicted of two charges on May 12, one of wounding religious feelings of the Christians, the other of uploading an obscene image with the faces of Lee and former British premier Margaret Thatcher attached to it. After refusing to see his assigned probation officer, Yee was remanded to prison on June 2.

On Tuesday the court heard Yee may be suffering from autism spectrum disorder. However, his father Alphonsus Yee said the teenager was never assessed for mental illness, according to The Straits Times.

The judge remanded Yee for two weeks to the Institute of Mental Health for assessment of his mental health.

Yee’s Facebook is filled with messages describing his prison life although it’s not known if the messages came from him. The Straits Times said Yee does not have access to telecommunication devices in prison.

amos yee
Amos Yee’s Facebook post about his life in prison.

The next hearing is scheduled on July 6, when the court will decide whether to sentence Yee to mandatory psychiatric treatment. The teenager could also be sentenced to a stint at the Reformative Training Centre, a facility for juvenile offenders who have committed serious crimes. A stint will leave the offender with a criminal record.

Vivienne Zeng is a journalist from China with three years' experience covering Hong Kong and mainland affairs. She has an MA in journalism from the University of Hong Kong. Her work has been featured on outlets such as Al Jazeera+ and MSNBC.