Founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew’s grandson Li Shengwu has chosen to amend a private Facebook post about the “litigious nature” of the Singapore Government, after the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) allegedly sent him a “threatening letter saying that my private post is an attack on the Singapore judiciary and is in contempt of court.”
Shengwu attracted the attention of the AGC on 15 July after posting a private “friends-only” Facebook post, criticising Singapore’s government and judiciary.
Linking a Wall Street Journal article that offered a thorough analysis of the public Oxley Rd feud, Shengwu had said in his own words: “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.”
He then linked a New York Times article on censorship and the use of defamation laws by both Lee Kuan Yew and Lee Hsien Loong to censor the foreign press.
In responding to media queries, an AGC spokesperson said, “AGC is aware of the post and is looking into the matter.”
Shengwu hit back at the AGC and mainstream media’s coverage of his post:
Somewhat surprised that my last Facebook post has been enough to trigger a response from the Attorney-General’s Chambers in Singapore.
This post was shared on “Friends only” privacy settings on Saturday (20 likes at the time of this writing). Apparently, that’s enough to warrant three newspaper articles and a statement by the Attorney-General’s Chambers that they’re “looking into it”.
I’m surprised that the Singapore government is so petty. Would they also like to trawl my private Facebook feed for seditious vacation photos?
(By the way – the official media inaccurately reports that the post was “uploaded on Saturday and later taken down”. It’s never been taken down – if you’re among my Facebook friends you can see it just below this one.)
It appears that the AGC has concluded that Shengwu’s post may be in contempt of court. Perhaps under pressure from the AGC, Shengwu has decided to clarify the context of his first private Facebook post.
In a statement released on his page today, the eldest son of Lee Hsien Yang reiterated his criticisms of mainstream media coverage of his private post and elaborated on the meaning of his original comments. He said:
On 15 July 2017, I made a posting on a “friends only” privacy setting, for the purpose of sharing a summary by the Wall Street Journal of the political crisis in Singapore. I also added a link to an editorial by the New York Times.
An unauthorized screenshot of my private post was however taken, and given to others that did not have access to my private post. Without my approval, the unauthorized screenshot of my private post, or content from my private post, was published and republished by others, including by Singapore’s mainstream media.
The Singapore Attorney General’s Chambers then sent me a threatening letter saying that my private post is an attack on the Singapore judiciary and is in contempt of court. It is not.
No one who published or republished my private post had approached me to clarify what I meant. Curiously, the Singapore media had time to seek statements from a Senior Minister of State and the AGC, but did not even do basic fact-checking – they inaccurately reported that the post was taken down, because they did not bother to contact me.
If my private post is read in context, it is evident that I did not attack the Singapore judiciary. In the context of sharing the summary by the Wall Street Journal, I intended to convey that the international media were restricted in their ability to report on the recent crisis, due to the litigious nature of the Singapore government, and the different legal rules with respect to press freedom in Singapore as compared to countries such as the United States. There is also flexibility in Singapore’s defamation laws – they just have different boundaries from the defamation laws in other jurisdictions. The government makes use of these legal rules to restrict unfavourable reporting.
It is not my intent to attack the Singapore judiciary or to undermine public confidence in the administration of justice. 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. However, to avoid any misunderstanding of my original private post, I have amended the post so as to clarify my meaning.
On 15 July 2017, I made a posting on a “friends only” privacy setting, for the purpose of sharing a summary by the Wall…
Shengwu’s father and paternal aunt, Dr Lee Wei Ling, had been embroiled in a public dispute against their elder brother, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, in June and July 2017, when they alleged that the PM was abusing his power to preserve their family home against their father’s willed desire to demolish the house.
The siblings alleged that the PM had convened a secret committee to make a decision on the house and that state organs were being used against them. PM Lee addressed the allegations against him in a Parliamentary debate where he declared that he has been cleared of all charges. He added that he does not intend to sue his siblings.
Lee Wei Ling and Lee Hsien Yang reinforced their allegations, following this, but offered a ceasefire on releasing further evidence in favor of settling the matter in private, on the condition that they nor their father’s will be attacked or misrepresented.
Dr Lee Wei Ling has come out in support of her nephew when Shengwu’s post caught the eye of the AGC. Sharing his post on her Facebook page, she wondered whether government staff are used to monitor her family’s private musings and suggested that this case could be an example of how Singapore may be governed by a “big brother” system:
I am surprised that AGC takes such negative reaction to a private post. Is there a government servant whose duty is to follow the Facebook activity of all people related to Hsien Yang and I, including our private musings. Also, what Shengwu posted is a common topic amongst Singaporeans who are well informed. Is this not an example of ” big Brother government”. Perhaps it is a case of “if the hat fits, take it.”
I am surprised that AGC takes such negative reaction to a private post. Is there a government servant whose duty is to…