AGC's action against me is 'politically motivated': Li Shengwu

Nicholas Yong
Li Shengwu deliving a eulogy at the funeral of Lee Kuan Yew in March 2015. Screenshot from YouTube

UPDATE: This article has been amended to reflect Li Shengwu’s letter to the AGC.

Li Shengwu has denounced the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) move to begin contempt of court proceedings against him as “politically motivated prosecution”.

In an email response to Yahoo News Singapore‘s queries, the eldest son of Lee Hsien Yang said on Saturday (5 August), “The AGC’s letter directly mentions Singapore’s recent political crisis as justification for their action.  I thought Singapore was better than this.”

He added, “I will not buy a quiet life at the price of my integrity.”

Also on Saturday, Li said in a separate interview with Reuters that he had no intention of going back to Singapore to face charges.

On Friday, AGC announced that it had filed an application in the High Court to commence committal proceedings against Li for contempt of court over his Facebook post on 15 July this year. In his private post, the 32-year-old junior fellow at Harvard University had said that “the Singapore government is very litigious and has a pliant court system”.

In its July letter to Li – which is being circulated online – the AGC had said that the republication of his post was an “entirely foreseeable consequence” given that he is the grandson of the late Lee Kuan Yew.

It also noted “the timing of the Post, coming shortly after a highly published debate in Singapore, including the Singapore Parliament, in respect of allegations by members of your family against the Prime Minister of abuse of power, and your postings publicly supporting your family.”

“The highly inflammatory nature of these assertions…directly contradict Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s values and the judicial system which he spent his entire public life upholding and defending, and would therefore be very topical,” it added.

‘AGC has misunderstood me’

Li, who is also the nephew of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, reproduced his letter to the AGC online on Saturday. Dated 4 August, the letter claimed that “AGC has taken my post completely out of context (and) misunderstood me”.

In the letter, he explained that his post was not meant as a criticism of the Singapore judiciary. Instead, he was commenting on how “the Singapore government’s litigation against the international media acts as a censorship to the coverage of the international media”.

LI again stressed that his post was a private one and that it had been circulated without his permission. It was then reproduced by mainstream media outlets such as The Straits Times and Channel NewsAsia, none of which approached him for verification or clarification.

“Instead, the mainstream media articles capitalized as newsworthy comments made on 16 July by Senior Minister of State Chee Hong Tat that he was ‘disappointed with’ my actions and on 17 July by AGC that it was looking into my post, making my private post public news and widely circulated.”

He added, “I am not responsible for the widespread and unauthorized publication and republication in Singapore of my private post.”

Noting that AGC’s concern appears to be the public reproduction of his private post, Li said, “Perhaps AGC should require the mainstream media and other parties who made my private post public to delete and remove their unauthorized publications and republications.”

 Earlier on Friday, Li also said that it was not his intention to attack the Singapore judiciary, stressing that his post was private and not meant to be circulated. He also told Yahoo News Singapore that it was the AGC that had “escalated” the dispute over his July post.