‘I do not admit guilt’: Li Shengwu to pay $15,000 fine for ‘peace and quiet’

Li Shengwu's appeal against serving of court papers in contempt case dismissed
Li Shengwu, nephew of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong. (FILE PHOTO: Reuters)

SINGAPORE — Li Shengwu, nephew of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, has decided to pay a $15,000 fine imposed by the High Court in June for scandalising contempt of court.

However, in a Facebook post on Tuesday (11 August), the grandson of Lee Kuan Yew insisted that he does not admit guilt, and has never denied what he wrote to his friends in a private Facebook post in 2017 that the Singapore Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) took issue with.

“I disagree that my words were illegal. Moreover, civilised countries should not fine or jail their citizens for private comments on the court system,” he wrote on Tuesday.

It is the latest chapter in the long-running Lee saga, which first erupted in June 2017 when PM Lee’s younger siblings Hsien Yang and Wei Ling went public with their dispute over the fate of the old family home at 38 Oxley Road, accusing their brother of abuse of power.

Shengwu is the eldest son of Hsien Yang.

Paying fine for ‘peace and quiet’

Li, 34, said that he decided to pay the fine in order to “buy some peace and quiet”, adding that it avoids giving the Singapore government “an easy excuse to attack me and my family”.

He maintains that the true scandal amid this incident is the “misuse of state resources to repress private speech”.

“In the course of this three-year prosecution, the Singapore AGC has written thousands of pages of legal documents, suppressed parts of my defence affidavit, and demanded that I reveal to them all of my friends on Facebook,” he wrote.

“Back in January, I decided that I would not dignify the government’s prosecution by continuing to respond. Even without my participation, it took six more months to arrive at a verdict, long enough for the government to mishandle a pandemic and hold an election.”

Comments made in relation to family feud

In July 2017, Li – an assistant professor of economics at Harvard University – stated in a Facebook post that Singapore had a “pliant court system” and that the Singapore government was "very litigious”, prompting the AGC to begin an inquiry over possible contempt of court.

The comments were made in relation to the Lee saga.

During the court hearing in June - which Li declined to attend – Justice Kannan Ramesh said that he was satisfied that AGC had proven the elements of the charge, that the post held the real risk of undermining public confidence in administration of justice and did not constitute fair criticism.

AGC said the $15,000 fine was necessary to deter Li and like-minded offenders from “making similar baseless allegations impugning the independence of the Singapore Judiciary”.

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