“I will not buy a quiet life at the price of my integrity”
This is how Li Shengwu has responded to news that the Attorney-General’s Chambers which is initiating legal action against him over a private “friends only” Facebook post published on 15 July.
The late founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew’s grandson categorised the AGC’s initiation of contempt of court proceedings as “politically motivated prosecution,” adding that the institution has misunderstood the meaning and context of his private comment when he said that “the Singapore government is very litigious and has a pliant court system.”
The AGC filed an application in the High Court for leave to commence committal proceedings against Shengwu for “contempt of court in connection with the publication of a Facebook post” yesterday since he had “failed to purge the contempt and to apologise by the extended deadline” of 5pm on 4 August. The AGC also released its correspondence with Shengwu online.
32-year-old Shengwu – who is a junior fellow at Harvard University in the USA and is expected to become a associate professor at the University next year – asserted that he has no intention to disrupt his “happy” and “fulfilling” life in the US by returning to Singapore to face charges.
On his Facebook page, Shengwu also released a letter he had sent to the AGC that he claims the AGC “mysteriously omitted” in their release of correspondence on their website yesterday.
Since the AGC has seen fit to publish their correspondence with me, I thought it would be helpful to fill in the part that they mysteriously omitted.
In the letter, Shengwu has put forth that “AGC has taken my post completely out of context (and) misunderstood me” since his post was not meant to be a jab at the Singapore judiciary but a comment on how “the Singapore government’s litigation against the international media acts as a censorship to the coverage of the international media.”
Shengwu reinforced his point that his initial post was a private one that had been circulated without his permission and republished without clarification or verification by mainstream media outlets like the Straits Times and Channel News Asia. He emphasised that the AGC should take issue with the public reproduction of his post if it has to instead of targeting him for making a private comment to his friends. He said:
“I am not responsible for the widespread and unauthorized publication and republication in Singapore of my private post…Perhaps AGC should require the mainstream media and other parties who made my private post public to delete and remove their unauthorized publications and republications.”
The AGC has responded that it received the latest letter after the extended deadline of 5pm yesterday. A spokeswoman said that the AGC is unable to comment extensively as the matter is before the court but said:
“The AGC notes that the document does not purport to comply with our letter of demand that Mr Li purge his contempt and apologise, but will nonetheless place the document before the Court.”
In speaking with Yahoo, Shengwu took issue with the AGC’s basis for targeting him:
“The AGC’s letter directly mentions Singapore’s recent political crisis as justification for their action. I thought Singapore was better than this.”
The AGC was likely pointing to the Lee Family Feud which gripped the nation in June and July 2017 when Lee Kuan Yew’s younger children Lee Wei Ling and Lee Hsien Yang leveled allegations of abuse of power against the elder brother Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, in connection with their father’s willed desire to demolish their family home at 38 Oxley Road.
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.
After the ceasefire was accepted by the PM, Lee Hsien Yang’s son Shengwu attracted the attention of the AGC on 15 July after posting a private 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.