A joke Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s wife Ho Ching shared on Facebook has led some Singaporeans to recall the strained relationship between her husband and his brother, Lee Hsien Yang.
On Tuesday (14 July), Mdm Ho shared a social media post from the ‘Fifty Nerds of Grey’ joke page. The joke, “We all know Albert Einstein was a genius…but his brother Frank was a monster”, is a play on words that refers to Frankenstein.
While Mdm Ho most likely shared the post because she wanted her followers to have a good laugh, the reference to brothers has evoked memories of Singapore’s most famous pair of brothers: her husband, Lee Hsien Loong, and her brother-in-law, Lee Hsien Yang.
Some netizens alluded to the Lee family feud in the comments section of the post. The timing of the post also drew scrutiny, since it was published the same day that her in-laws have spoken up against prominent establishment figure Bilahari Kausikan over claims he made pertaining to their family feud.
Lee Hsien Loong, Lee Hsien Yang and their sister, Lee Wei Ling, are the children of Singapore’s founding prime minister Lee Kuan Yew. The relationship between the siblings has remained fractured since at least 2016, when Lee Wei Ling claimed that PM Lee wanted to establish a dynasty.
Months later, in 2017, Lee Wei Ling and Lee Hsien Yang accused PM Lee of using his power of head of government to subvert their duty to have the house demolished as per their late father’s last will.
PM Lee vehemently denied the charges against him in Parliament and said that he is choosing not to sue his siblings for defamation as that could besmirch their parents’ names. His younger siblings maintained that they have lost trust in PM Lee as their brother and national leader.
The strain between the siblings relationship with one another appears to have permeated their extended family. This seems to have been exacerbated when the Attorney-General’s Chambers initiated legal action against Lee Hsien Yang’s son Li Shengwu over a private Facebook post, before lodging a complaint against Lee Hsien Yang’s wife Lee Suet Fern to the Law Society.
It also came to light that Li Shengwu and PM Lee and Ho Ching’s son Li Hongyi, who were once said to be close, are no longer on speaking terms. Shengwu recently removed Hongyi from his Facebook friends list and Hongyi responded by asking his cousin to leave him out of his conflict with the authorities.
Speculation that relations between Lee Hsien Yang, Lee Wei Ling and Ho Ching may be frigid arose much earlier, in 2016 when Lee Wei Ling accused her brother of trying to establish a dynasty. On the same day that PM Lee called the claim “completely untrue,” Ho Ching posted a photo of a monkey raising its middle finger to Twitter and Facebook.
Netizens responding to the PM’s wife’s post speculated that the photo may be directed at her sister-in-law.
Mdm Ho later apologised for the photo and explained the post away as an unintentional social media gaffe. She said: “Peace, folks, and embarrassed apologies from this Twitter newbie…Discovered Twitter reposts pictures without captions, and unfortunately one of the pictures could be misunderstood on its own. Took down as soon as a friend alerted me.”
In 2017, Lee Hsien Yang accused Ho Ching of overstepping her role and acting as a contact for the Prime Minister’s Office in lending items that belonged to Mr Lee Kuan Yew to the National Heritage Board.
Lee Hsien Yang said that Ho Ching helped herself to a number of Lee Kuan Yew’s papers on 5 Feb 2015, when his father was admitted gravely ill into the ICU, and expressed concern that she could represent the PMO “despite holding no official position.” Ho Ching disputed his account in an open letter.
In July 2019, Lee Hsien Yang asked why his sister-in-law’s salary remains a secret. Ho Ching is the chief executive of Singapore sovereign wealth fund Temasek and has managed the Government-linked body for over a decade and a half. Despite this, her remuneration is unknown to Singaporeans.
Almost exactly a year later, Mr Lee joined the Progress Singapore Party (PSP). Although he did not contest the latest election, he urged Singaporeans to vote fearlessly for the opposition.
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