Singapore—The High Court found Li Shengwu guilty of contempt of court on Wednesday (July 29). Justice Kannan Ramesh said in his verdict that Mr Li has two weeks to pay the fine of $15,000, otherwise he will have to serve one week in jail.
Mr Li, the grandson of Singapore’s founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew and nephew of current Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, was ordered by the Judge to pay S$8,500 for the costs of proceedings, as well as S$8,070 for filing fees, photocopying charges, service of documents on Mr Li in the United States, where he is based, and database fees.
Mr Li, the son of Lee Hsien Yang, teaches economics at Harvard University and was not present at the reading of the verdict. He said last January that he would not participate any further in court proceedings in the case.
He did, however, post a comment on the verdict in a Facebook post on Wednesday morning, writing that he disagrees with the judgment, and worries “that it will reinforce the PAP’s tendency to suppress ordinary political speech.”
Mr Li said “In response to three words in a private Facebook post, the government has wasted three years of civil servants’ time,” pertaining to his Facebook post from 2017 for which he was charged with contempt of court.
The Harvard professor posted a photo of the first page of the memoirs of Lee Kuan Yew, “From Third World to First,” which had been signed by his grandfather with “Love, Yeye.”
He added, “In a kind of cruel irony, the AGC has spent long hours lecturing me about my grandfather’s values. The AGC is supposed to be an apolitical agency, even though the current attorney general was my uncle’s personal lawyer.
As I was arranging my bookshelf the other day, I came across a gift from my childhood. (photo attached) Those were better times, before my uncle bullied his siblings and tore the family apart.”
Mr Li was charged with contempt of court because he allegedly said in a post on Facebook that Singapore has a “pliant court system” and that the Singapore Government was “very litigious”. His post was put up in July 2017, and by August 4, the Attorney-General’s Chambers filed an application in the High Court to start committal proceedings against him for contempt of court.
The post had been set to a “friends only” setting, and included a link to an article from the New York Times from 2010 entitled “Censored in Singapore.”
Mr Li wrote on his post, “Keep in mind, of course, that the Singapore government is very litigious and has a pliant court system. This constrains what the international media can usually report.”
The media in Singapore picked up on the post and reprinted it widely, according to the Attorney General, who wrote Mr Li a warning letter asking him to remove the post.
Mr Li was also asked to issue an apology on his Facebook account.
According to the Attorney General, the post was “an egregious and baseless attack on the Singapore Judiciary and constitutes an offence of contempt of court…. The clear meaning of the post, in referring to ‘a pliant court system’, is that the Singapore Judiciary acts on the direction of the Singapore Government, is not independent, and has ruled and will continue to rule in favour of the Singapore Government in any proceedings, regardless of the merits of the case.” —/TISG