A Reddit thread asking for netizens’ opinions on whether they think Lee Hsien Yang or Li Hongyi would contest the next General Election (GE) has drawn mixed views.
Lee Hsien Yang is the youngest son of founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew and younger brother of current PM Lee Hsien Loong. Li Hongyi is PM Lee Hsien Loong’s son.
Speculation that Lee Hsien Yang might contest the next GE by joining an opposition party has been rife, given his ongoing feud with his elder brother, the Government’s action against his family members, and recent sightings of him with opposition politicians.
Mr Lee has been publicly spotted with Dr Tan Cheng Bock, a veteran politician and leader of the Progress Singapore Party, for meals at coffeeshops on two separate occasions.
Earlier this month, Mr Lee was spotted at a fundraising dinner that was attended by local opposition politicians like Dr Tan Cheng Bock, Dr Chee Soon Juan, Dr Paul Tambyah, Mr Leon Perera, Mr Tan Jee Say, and Ms Jeannette Chong-Aruldoss.
Mr Lee has also made financial contributions to help activists embroiled in court cases. He has given to the legal fund of Mr Leong Sze Hian – who is fighting a defamation suit brought on by PM Lee Hsien Loong – and paid $20,000 as a security deposit for Mr Jolovan Wham to appeal a contempt of court case.
Speculation is also rife that some members of the ruling People’s Action Party’s (PAP) Central Executive Committee (CEC) were installed to groom Li Hongyi to join politics.
Citing “word from the grapevine,” local filmmaker Martyn See speculated on Facebook that Foreign Affairs Minister Vivian Balakrishnan may have been re-elected into the ruling party’s highest decision-making body to catapult Hongyi into politics, since Balakrishnan has allegedly been “mentoring Li Hongyi to be a potential candidate under the Holland-Bukit Timah GRC.”
Mr See wrote: “Is Vivian Balakrishnan’s re-election into the new PAP CEC a dress rehearsal for his appointment as Lee’s Kingmaker?
“Word from the grapevine is that he has been mentoring Li Hongyi to be a potential candidate under the Holland-Bukit Timah GRC, and thereafter spearhead a PR campaign to catapult Li to the upper echelons of the PAP leadership. Simultaneously, Lee Hsien Loong is expected to say that he played no part in his son’s decision to enter politics.
“This orchestra will start performing in 2019 or 2020. Lawsuits against accusations of nepotism may fly in all directions.”
This is not the first time that Mr See has speculated that Hongyi – who serves as Deputy Director (Data Science & Artificial Intelligence Division) at the Government Technology Agency of Singapore (GovTech), an institution that sits under the Prime Minister’s Office – will be “parachuted” into politics.
In June last year, Mr See wrote that “all recent indicators point to Li Hongyi entering politics soon to perpetuate dynastic rule in Singapore.” He speculated:
“PM Lee’s most cogent task has been to establish the following three conditions which will propel his son to the top of the hierarchy.
“1. REMOVE obstacles by continuing to crush dissent, neutralise opposition and demolish competition. No one stands in the way, be it an ex-Straits Times editor, an ex-PAP veteran or his own nephew.
“2. ACCUMULATE abundant reserves in the government coffers to ease the future PM’s job of sustaining the economy, fixing the opposition and buying supporters votes. To this end, no policy is too sensitive to implement – raising fees, taxes, new compulsory CPF premiums, etc.
“3. SWEETEN the ground for Hongyi to make an impression. This will take some time, for it entails an elaborate PR campaign to hype his superhuman qualities in order to make the public forget earlier denials of dynastic ambitions made by himself and his father.
“Good news for him is that he doesn’t need to win the hearts and minds of the national majority. He just need to do enough to secure an electoral win in a GRC.
“Once in Parliament, with the orchestrated support of the PAP cadre system, the Lee brand and relentless cheerleading and astroturfing from grassroots groups, PAP IB and the mainstream media, Li Hongyi will eventually become the 5th Prime Minister of post-independence Singapore (circa 2033), with the loyal soldier Chan Chun Sing making way as seat warmer.
“Majulah PAP forever. Long live Lee Dynasty.”
Respected international publication, the Nikkei Asian Review, has also said that Heng Swee Keat is expected to mentor Li Hongyi to be Singapore’s potential fifth-generation Prime Minister, just like how second-gen PM Goh Chok Tong mentored current PM Lee Hsien Loong.
Mr Goh succeeded founding PM Lee Kuan Yew and has been seen as a “seatwarmer” PM since he paved the way for Lee Kuan Yew’s son Lee Hsien Loong to take office.
The Nikkei Asian Review article asserted that the recent appointment of Heng Swee Keat as the PAP’s first assistant secretary-general – which is seen as confirmation that he will become the next PM – “promises no break” from the PAP’s usual pattern.
Noting that Heng’s “background signals policy continuity,” the article said that this “makes him a safe pair of hands” and that he can do for Li Hongyi what Goh Chok Tong did for Lee Hsien Loong, if Hongyi shows an interest in politics.
Last year, PM Lee responded to whether the next generation of Lees would join politics. Noting that it would be unkind of him to “burden” his children since it is “difficult enough” for them to carry his name, PM Lee said:
“Not sure any of them have shown any interest in coming to politics. They are entitled to, but I don’t think it’s likely they feel the same compulsion that I did – duty that I do. They have their own responsibilities, their careers. I’m sure they’ll make contributions in their own ways.
“But it would be unkind of me to add more burden on them. It’s difficult enough for them as it is to carry my name.”
In 2017, Li Hongyi himself said that he really has no interest in politics, after his paternal uncle and aunt accused his father of grooming him for politics, during the explosive Lee family dispute.
Hongyi’s cousin Li Shengwu Mr Lee Hsien Yang’s son – later noted that Hongyi’s comments on a potential entry into Singapore politics is “vague” as 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.”
Yesterday (18 July), a Reddit user (u/thedangersofbeing35) asked netizens about whether they think Lee Hsien Yang or Li Hongyi would contest the next election. Netizens appeared divided in their views.
Some felt that Lee Hsien Yang could throw his hat in the ring and that Hongyi will contest politics at the next GE after the impending one: