Singapore PM’s Nephew Says Will Not Return Home to Face Charges

SINGAPORE — The nephew of Singapore’s prime minister, who faces contempt of court proceedings for comments he made suggesting the city-state’s courts were not independent, said he would not be returning to Singapore.

The office of Singapore’s attorney general said on Friday it would begin contempt of court proceedings against Li Shengwu, a U.S.-based academic, over Facebook posts he made on July 15. The legal move is the latest twist in a family feud over the fate of the house left by the late Singapore founding father Lee Kwan Yew that gripped the nation last month.

In his post, Li, nephew of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and a son of Lee’s brother, Lee Hsien Yang, described the Singapore government as “litigious” and its courts as “pliant”.

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Li Shengwu

Li, 32, is currently a junior fellow at Harvard University and told Reuters on Saturday from the United States he expected to start an assistant professor position with the university in the fall of 2018.

He said he would defend himself through legal representation in Singapore but would not return to the country.

“I have no intention of going back to Singapore. I have a happy life and a fulfilling job in the U.S.,” he said in an interview.

Li said the prosecution against him was “politically motivated”.

“The Attorney General’s Chambers explicitly mentioned both my family relationships and recent political events in their cease and desist letter,” said Li.

“I would like to spend my time doing research, but have somehow been swept into my uncle Lee Hsien Loong’s personal political vendetta.”

Spokespeople for the Prime Minister’s Office were not immediately available for comment on Saturday.


In a statement on Friday, the attorney general’s chambers said it had previously instructed Li to remove the post and issue a letter of apology acknowledging that his comments about the judiciary were baseless.

It said since Li had failed to meet those requirements by the stipulated deadline of 0900 GMT, Friday, which had been pushed back from July 28 at Li’s request, it had filed the contempt proceedings in High Court.

Earlier on Friday, Li said on Facebook he had amended his original July 15 post to clarify any misunderstandings. However, he said he did not believe the post was in contempt of court.

Li’s July 15 post was shared on a privacy setting that allows content to only be viewed by his Facebook friends. He said on Friday the intent of that post was to convey the “international media were restricted in their ability to report” on a recent feud between Prime Minister Lee and his siblings “due to the litigious nature” of the government.

“It is not my intent to attack the Singapore judiciary or to undermine public confidence in the administration of justice,” he said.

The public spat between the Lee siblings, children of Lee Kuan Yew, flared in June over the future of the family home, in which Lee Kuan Yew, who died at the age of 91 in 2015, lived for most of his life.

Lee Hsien Yang and sister Lee Wei Ling accused their elder brother of abusing power to try to save the house as a historic monument in defiance of his father’s wishes. That prompted the prime minister to call an extraordinary special sitting of parliament in July to “clear the air” over an issue that some people say has tarnished Singapore’s image.

(Reporting by Sam Holmes; Editing by Alex Richardson and Bill Tarrant)

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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 Singapore, Family Feud Deepens Over Facebook Posts

BANGKOK — Singapore’s government has been trying for two weeks to get the Harvard economist Li Shengwu, a grandson of Singapore’s founder, Lee Kuan Yew, to apologize for comments he made in a private Facebook post that were seen as critical of the country’s leadership.

The Singapore attorney general’s office even drafted an apology letter for Mr. Li to sign, in which he would admit to contempt of court and to making what it called “false and baseless” statements.

But on Friday, Mr. Li declined to give in to the demands of the government, which is led by his uncle, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, and refused to sign the apology. In the Facebook post last month, he said that some foreign news outlets engaged in self-censorship when covering the prime minister because of the threat of legal action in Singapore.

The dispute is the latest in a bitter family drama that has riveted the city-state and raised questions about the legacy of Mr. Lee, Singapore’s first prime minister, and how the nation should be governed after 58 years of one-party rule.

In refusing to apologize, Mr. Li said Friday in a new Facebook post, this one public, that his criticism of Singapore for suppressing press freedom was aimed at the government, not the courts. “It is not my intent to attack the Singapore judiciary or to undermine public confidence in the administration of justice,” he wrote. “Any criticism I made is of the Singapore government’s litigious nature, and its use of legal rules and actions to stifle the free press.”

The sparring comes as Singapore’s most prominent family has been battling over Lee Kuan Yew’s wish that the family home where he lived for nearly 70 years be demolished after his death. He died in 2015 at 91. Two of Mr. Lee’s three children have accused their elder brother, the prime minister, of abusing his power to try to save the house as a historic monument, in defiance of their father’s will. The prime minister’s motive, they said, was to bolster his own legitimacy and further the possibility of a Lee family dynasty, charges he has denied.

The dispute turned into a public spectacle last month when Mr. Lee devoted two days to parliamentary discussion of his siblings’ complaints against him. “In Singapore, everyone is equal before the law,” he told Parliament. “When the dust has settled on this unhappy episode, people must know that the government in Singapore operates transparently, impartially and properly.”

The government continues to monitor criticism, including comments from the prime minister’s nephew at Harvard.

Mr. Li is the son of Lee Hsien Yang, the prime minister’s younger brother and chairman of the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore. Mr. Li’s father has said he plans to leave Singapore indefinitely for fear of retribution.

Singapore’s leaders have long turned to the courts to limit free speech by filing costly defamation lawsuits against citizens and international news outlets.

In the Facebook post last month viewable only to friends, Mr. Li referred to this practice and included a link to a 2010 commentary in The New York Times on the government’s use of the law to limit criticism. After someone took a screenshot of the post and circulated it, state-run news media picked up on it and published it widely.

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One Response to “Singapore PM’s Nephew Says Will Not Return Home to Face Charges”

  1. daveyone1 Says:

    Reblogged this on World Peace Forum.

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