Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s son Li Hongyi has asked his paternal cousin Li Shengwu to leave him out of grievances with the Singapore authorities, in a Facebook post published on Thursday night (23 Jan).
Shengwu announced that he is removing Hongyi from his Facebook friends list on Wednesday (22 Jan). The US-based academic, who has been embroiled in a contempt of court lawsuit brought on by the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) over a private Facebook post that was leaked by one of his Facebook friends, said that he will no longer be participating in the legal proceedings due to the AGC’s conduct.
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.”
Shengwu and Hongyi were once described as “very close” and drew heightened attention when they delivered eulogies at their grandfather, founding Prime Minister’s Lee Kuan Yew’s funeral in 2015.
Cracks in their relationship, however, became public in 2017 — the year that the Lee family feud spilled into the public domain and the year that the Government initiated legal action against Shengwu over a private Facebook post that was made during the family feud.
In December 2017, Shengwu revealed that he was no longer on speaking terms with Hongyi but that they remained Facebook friends. One publication reported that Shengwu wore a “bitter smile” as he said: “We are no longer on speaking terms, but he is still among my Facebook friends, I did not remove him.”
In response to Shengwu’s most recent revelation that he has decided to remove Hongyi from his Facebook friends list, the Prime Minister’s son wrote on Facebook: “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?”
Claiming that he has “really tried to not be involved as far as possible,” Hongyi said: “If there’s something I’ve done that’s led you to believe otherwise, I would be happy to talk with you about it. It’s a bit disconcerting to be repeatedly publicly accused of undermining democracy without understanding why.”
He added: “I would prefer not to have done this over public facebook posts. But I suppose thats (sic) how we communicate nowadays.”
Although the exact origins of the rift between them remain unclear, there is speculation that their relationship fractured around the time the Oxley Road dispute broke out between Lee Kuan Yew’s children in 2017.
That year, Lee Hsien Yang and his sister Lee Wei Ling accused their elder brother, PM Lee, of using state organs against them and of abusing his power to preserve their family home against their father’s willed desire to demolish the house, in order to bolster his grip on power.
The younger siblings also accused PM Lee of grooming Hongyi for politics. Hongyi responded to the allegations and claimed that he really had no interest in politics.
Shengwu, however, pointed out that Hongyi’s comments on a potential entry into Singapore politics were “vague”. He told the press: “He only said he has no interest in politics, but my uncle Lee Hsien Loong also once said he wasn’t interested in politics when he was in his 20s. These words can easily be taken back.”
PM Lee later cleared himself of the charges that his siblings levelled against him in Parliament -– an arena where his siblings had no opportunity to speak for themselves. He added that he would not sue his siblings for defamation as doing so would “besmirch” his parents’ names.
Despite a ceasefire that the younger siblings have offered, the family appears to remain estranged. -/TISG