SINGAPORE — Li Shengwu, the nephew of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, said he will no longer take part in contempt of court proceedings against him.
In a Facebook post on Wednesday evening (22 January), the assistant professor of economics at Harvard University blasted what he calls the Attorney-General’s Chambers’ (AGC) persistently “unusual conduct” in its two-and-a-half-year-long case against him.
For example, Li said, the AGC had applied to strike out parts of his defence affidavit, with the result that they will not be considered at the trial. He added that the AGC subsequently demanded that these parts be sealed in the court record. The public does not have access to sealed court records.
And, Li said, when arguing jurisdiction in the Court of Appeal, the AGC argued that a new piece of legislation should be retroactively applied against him. “The court saw it as unfair for the new legislation to apply retrospectively,” Li said.
Given the AGC’s actions, the 34-year-old concluded that he would no longer participate in the legal proceedings, adding, “I will not dignify the AGC’s conduct by my participation.”
Background to the case
Li had published a private Facebook post on 15 July 2017 with comments blasting the government and questioning the independence of the judicial system.
In a letter sent six days after the post, Senior State Counsel Francis Ng called it “an egregious and baseless attack” on the Singapore legal system and asked Li to sign a declaration that he had made false allegations, was in contempt of the judiciary, and to apologise unreservedly.
Li later explained that his post was intended as a criticism of the Singapore government’s effect on press freedom and that the AGC “chose to escalate the dispute”.
Later in the same month, the AGC applied for – and was subsequently granted – permission in the High Court to commence proceedings against Li for contempt of court. “This prosecution has continued for years, and during that time the AGC has submitted thousands of pages of legal documents over one paragraph on social media,” said Li on Wednesday.
He added, “I will continue to be active on Facebook, and will continue to regard my friends-only Facebook posts as private. However, I have removed my cousin Li Hongyi from my Facebook friends list.”
Yahoo News Singapore has reached out to Providence Law Asia, the legal firm representing Li, and the AGC for comment.
If found guilty, Li could face a fine up to $100,000 or a jail term of up to three years, or both. He is the eldest son of Lee Hsien Yang and the nephew of Lee Wei Ling, Hsien Yang’s older sister.
Hsien Yang and Wei Ling are embroiled in a long-running family feud against their older brother PM Lee over the fate of their old family home at 38 Oxley Road.