SINGAPORE – Mr Li Shengwu on Saturday (Aug 5) shared his response to the Attorney-General’s Chambers on Facebook, in which he reiterated that his earlier post, when taken in context, is not in contempt of court.
The AGC had on Friday filed an application in the High Court to begin proceedings for contempt of court against Mr Li, 32, the eldest son of Mr Lee Hsien Yang and nephew of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.
The impending proceedings involve a Facebook post Mr Li published on July 15, which the AGC said was an “egregious and baseless attack” on the judiciary. It asked that Mr Li delete the post, and sign and publish a written apology on his Facebook page.
In his latest post, Mr Li shared a five-page letter that he sent to the AGC on Aug 4.
Referring to the AGC statement which included an exchange of letters with him, Mr Li wrote: “Since the AGC has seen fit to publish their correspondence with me, I thought it would be helpful to fill in the part that they mysteriously omitted.”
In his Aug 4 letter, Mr Li said the AGC had taken his private post “completely out of context” and misunderstood him. He added that he has amended the post to remove any misunderstanding, but will not delete it.
On July 15, he wrote that the “Singapore government is very litigious and has a pliant court system”, pointing out that foreign media had been cowed into self-censorship because of previous legal action.
He had shared a link to a Wall Street Journal newspaper article that summarised 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. He also included a link to a 2010 New York Times editorial critical of his late grandfather, founding prime minister Lee Kuan Yew, and the Government over what it deemed as censorship of the foreign press.
The post was set to the “friends only” privacy setting, but it was published by several websites and widely circulated on social media.
Referring to his remarks about the “pliant court system”, Mr Li said in his letter:“I am not saying or imputing that the Singapore judiciary acts on the direction of the Singapore government, or that it is not independent, or that it will continue to rule in favour of the Singapore government in any proceedings regardless of the merits.”
He added that the first sentence in his post makes clear it was focused on the coverage by the Wall Street Journal, while the second sentence in parenthesis cautions how the Singapore government’s legal action against the international media acts to censor their coverage.
“Any criticism is of the Singapore government’s aggressive use of legal rules such as defamation laws which has constrained reporting by the international press,” he said.
“What I said in my private post in context does not pose any real risk of undermining public confidence in the administration of justice.”
Mr Li noted that he has amended his private post to clarify his meaning, and reiterated he would not have given approval for it to be shared publicly.
He said he was thus not responsible for the “widespread and unauthorised publication and republication” of his private post in Singapore.
“As AGC’s concern appears to be the public reproduction of my private post, perhaps AGC should require the mainstream media and other parties who made my private post public to delete and remove their unauthorised publications and republications,” he added.
Responding to Mr Li on Saturday, a spokesman said the AGC received the letter after the extended deadline of 5pm on Aug 4.
“The AGC notes that the document does not purport to comply with our letter of demand that Mr Li purge his contempt and apologise, but will nonetheless place the document before the Court,” she said.
She added that the AGC is unable to comment further as the matter is now before the court.
Separately, Mr Li told Reuters he expected to commence an associate professor position with Harvard University – where he is currently a junior fellow – in the 2018 fall semester.
He said he would seek to defend himself through legal representation in Singapore but would not be returning here.
“I have no intention of going back to Singapore. I have a happy life and a fulfilling job in the US,” he told Reuters.
Mr Li’s July 15 post had come shortly after a parliamentary debate on the allegations of abuse of power that his father and aunt levelled against PM Lee.
The AGC had asked Mr Li to comply with its instructions to apologise and remove his post by 5pm on July 28.
A day before the deadline, Mr Li wrote to the AGC asking for the deadline to be extended to Aug 4, so he could “seek advice and respond”.
The AGC replied that same day agreeing to extend the deadline to 5pm on Aug 4.
On Friday, the AGC said Mr Li “failed to purge the contempt and to apologise by the extended deadline”. It then filed an application against him for contempt of court.