AGC given permission to continue contempt of court proceedings against Li Shengwu

The High Court has given permission to the AGC to continue with contempt of court proceedings against Li Shengwu.
The High Court has given permission to the AGC to continue with contempt of court proceedings against Li Shengwu.PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - The High Court on Monday (Aug 21) gave the Attorney-General's Chambers (AGC) permission to continue with contempt of court proceedings against Mr Li Shengwu over a Facebook post he made on the judiciary.

Senior State Counsel Francis Ng told reporters the AGC has till Sept 4 to file the necessary documents, which will be served on Mr Li.

This latest development happened on the same day that Mr Li - the eldest son of Mr Lee Hsien Yang and nephew of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong - posted on Facebook about an Aug 8 letter he received from the AGC.

Mr Li had written in an earlier Facebook post on July 15 that the "Singapore government is very litigious and has a pliant court system", and said foreign media had been cowed into self-censorship because of previous legal action.

The post was related to the recent dispute between his father and aunt Lee Wei Ling on one side, and his uncle on the other, over their late father's home at 38, Oxley Road.

The AGC called his post an "egregious and baseless attack" on the judiciary, and applied to begin contempt of court proceedings against him on Aug 4.

Its application was heard on Monday in chambers, which meant the hearing was not open to the public.

 
 
 

On the same day, Mr Li said the AGC had "privately revised its demands", and shared both its Aug 8 letter and his response.

The AGC in its letter asked Mr Li for an apology and an undertaking not to repeat his allegations, while noting that he had amended his July 15 post.

In response, Mr Li wrote: "The truth matters: I cannot confess to a crime I did not commit in return for a discontinuance of the legal proceedings against me."

He also said he was not responsible for the widespread publication of his post which was set to the "friends only" privacy setting, and asked the AGC to take action against local mainstream media for republishing what he wrote.

He added that PM Lee's press secretary Chang Li Lin had, "curiously", been aware of AGC's revised demands and disclosed them to the public on Aug 18 - a reference to her comments in response to an interview he gave to Reuters, in which he said he left Singapore because of concerns that he might be detained by the authorities.

Ms Chang said on Monday (Aug 21) in response to media queries that Reuters had asked the PM's office if this and other allegations Mr Li made were true.

"My office checked with the AGC and was told not only was Mr Li's claim that he might be detained inaccurate, AGC had in fact offered to drop the charges if he were to apologise and withdraw his statements. AGC received a subsequent query from Reuters on the same matter and asked Reuters to refer to the PMO's statement," she said.

In addition, Mr Li disputed an earlier AGC statement that it had received his response after 5pm on Aug 4.

He said: "My response letter was hand-delivered to AGC at 4.40pm on Friday, 4 August. This will be borne out by the footage from AGC's security cameras."

The AGC first wrote to Mr Li on July 21, asking the junior fellow at Harvard University who is based in Massachusetts to delete his July 15 post. It also asked him to sign and publish a public apology on his Facebook page by 5pm on July 28.

A day before the deadline, Mr Li wrote back, for an extension to Aug 4 so he could "seek advice and respond". The AGC replied the same day, agreeing to extend the deadline to 5pm on Aug 4.

Mr Li sent it a five-page letter on Aug 4, which he uploaded on Facebook as well. In it, he wrote that the AGC had misunderstood his private post, adding he had amended the post to remove any misunderstanding, but would not take it down.

Among other things, Mr Li said his criticism was directed not at the judiciary but at the Singapore Government's "aggressive use" of legal rules like defamation laws to constrain reporting by international media.

The AGC said the letter did not appear to comply with its letter of demand, but added that it will place the document before the court.