SINGAPORE — In the latest chapter of the long-running Lee saga, Li Shengwu has described the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC)’s accusations against him as “false and spurious”.
In a Facebook post on Thursday evening (23 January), the nephew of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said, “The AGC demands that I give them the identities of my Facebook friends. My position is this: Who my friends are is none of their business. My friends have a moral right to privacy.”
Noting that he had already declared his intention not to participate further in contempt of court proceedings against him, Li added, “I will not dignify the AGC's allegations with a detailed response.”
Earlier on Thursday, AGC charged that the 34-year-old’s behaviour showed that he viewed himself as “above the law”. The agency also called the timing of Li’s decision “significant”, as it had applied to cross-examine him on his defence affidavit, and for him to answer questions on oath about a Facebook post that prompted legal proceedings against him.
The AGC’s queries included how many Facebook friends Li had at the time of his post and whether they included members of the media - this is relevant to the question of whether Li would reasonably have foreseen his post to be published by the media, said the agency.
Background to the case
Li had published a private Facebook post on 15 July 2017 saying that “the Singapore government is very litigious and has a pliant court system”. The post included a link to a New York Times editorial titled “Censored in Singapore”.
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, an assistant professor of economics at Harvard University, 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.
Li 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. They have accused the PM of abuse of power and of plotting to establish a political dynasty.
Meanwhile, Shengwu’s cousin Hongyi also took to Facebook on Thursday with a message for him, “I don't know whats going on between you and the government, but I've got nothing to do with it. Could you please leave me out of this?”
Shengwu said on Wednesday that he would be deleting his cousin from his list of Facebook friends. In response, Hongyi said, “It's a bit disconcerting to be repeatedly publicly accused of undermining democracy without understanding why.
“I would prefer not to have done this over public Facebook posts. But I suppose thats how we communicate nowadays.”