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Rift between Lee cousins widens: Shengwu removes Hongyi from his Facebook friends list

They were once very close but cracks in their relationship became public in 2017

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The relationship between Singapore founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew’s grandsons Li Shengwu and Li Hongyi appears to be as fractured as ever.

Shengwu revealed on Facebook this evening (22 Jan) that he has removed Hongyi from his Facebook friends list.

Hongyi, 32, is the son of Lee Kuan Yew’s eldest son, current Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, while Shengwu, 34, is the eldest son of Lee Hsien Yang — Lee Kuan Yew’s youngest son.

Shengwu and Hongyi were once described as “very close”. The cousins, who drew attention when they delivered eulogies at their grandfather’s funeral in 2015, were both in the west coast of the United States at one point as Shengwu was pursuing his PhD at Stanford University and Hongyi was working at Google in Silicon Valley.

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Cracks in their relationship, however, became public in 2017 — the year that the Lee family feud spilled into the public domain and the year that the Government initiated legal action against Shengwu over a private Facebook post that was made during the family feud.

In December 2017, Shengwu revealed that he was no longer on speaking terms with Hongyi but that they remained Facebook friends.

Hong Kong–based Chinese-language digital news outlet Initium Media reported that Shengwu wore a “bitter smile” as he said: “We are no longer on speaking terms, but he is still among my Facebook friends, I did not remove him.”

Shengwu has now decided to remove Hongyi from his Facebook friends list. He also asserted that he will no longer be participating in the legal proceedings brought against him by the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) since he finds its conduct unfair.

Shengwu said this evening: “I will continue to be active on Facebook, and will continue to regard my friends-only Facebook posts as private. However, I have removed my cousin Li Hongyi from my Facebook friends list.”

Although the exact origins of the rift between them remain unclear, there is speculation that their relationship fractured around the time the Oxley Road dispute broke out between Lee Kuan Yew’s children in 2017.

That year, Lee Hsien Yang and his sister Lee Wei Ling accused their elder brother, PM Lee, of using state organs against them and of abusing his power to preserve their family home against their father’s willed desire to demolish the house, in order to bolster his grip on power.

The younger siblings also accused PM Lee of grooming Hongyi for politics. Hongyi responded to the allegations and claimed that he really had no interest in politics.

Shengwu, however, pointed out that Hongyi’s comments on a potential entry into Singapore politics were “vague”. 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.”

PM Lee later cleared himself of the charges that his siblings levelled against him in Parliament -– an arena where his siblings had no opportunity to speak for themselves. He added that he would not sue his siblings for defamation as doing so would “besmirch” his parents’ names.

Despite a ceasefire that the younger siblings offered, the family appears to remain estranged. In 2018, PM Lee said that the family feud remained unresolved and that his siblings had not communicated with him recently.

Describing the family feud as being in “abeyance”, PM Lee said: “I’m not sure if it’s solved,” before adding that he was still saddened by the dispute over the siblings’ family home, but expressed hope that relations with his siblings will improve in future, when “emotions have subsided”.

He added: “Perhaps one day, when emotions have subsided, some movement will be possible.”

Lee Hsien Yang responded and revealed that PM Lee had not made any effort to reach out to resolve matters in private. Taking issue with his brother’s words, Lee Hsien Yang hit back: “Our brother says he is unsure that the feud is solved. Notwithstanding his public statements, Hsien Loong has made no attempt to reach out to us to resolve matters in private.

“Meanwhile, the Attorney-General is busy prosecuting Hsien Loong’s nephew for his private correspondence. The AGC’s letters make repeated reference to the family feud.” 

The Attorney-General’s Chambers has also lodged a complaint against Lee Hsien Yang’s wife, Lee Suet Fern, accusing her of being involved in the preparation of her father-in-law’s last will while her husband was one of the beneficiaries. Lee Wei Ling and Lee Hsien Yang have vehemently denied the claims against Lee Suet Fern.

While Lee Suet Fern is set to fight the claims against her in a disciplinary tribunal, her son has said that he will no longer dignify the legal proceedings brought on against him due to the conduct of the AGC. He wrote on Facebook today:

“I have an announcement to make regarding the Singapore state’s prosecution against me. As you may remember, in 2017, during the events widely known as ‘Oxleygate’, my uncle Lee Hsien Loong was accused by his siblings of abusing state power to bully them and to subvert his own father’s dying wish.
“Shortly after, the Singapore Attorney General’s Chambers (AGC) started prosecuting me for allegedly “scandalising the judiciary” in a private Facebook post. This prosecution has continued for years, and during that time the AGC has submitted thousands of pages of legal documents over one paragraph on social media.
“Recently, the AGC applied to strike out parts of my own defense affidavit, with the result that they will not be considered at the trial. Moreover, they demanded that these parts be sealed in the court record, so that the public cannot know what the removed parts contain.
“This is not an isolated incident, but part of a broader pattern of unusual conduct by the AGC. For instance, when arguing jurisdiction in the court of appeals, the AGC argued that a new piece of legislation should be retroactively applied against me. The court saw it as unfair for the new legislation to apply retrospectively.
“In light of these events, I have decided that I will not continue to participate in the proceedings against me. I will not dignify the AGC’s conduct by my participation.”

I have an announcement to make regarding the Singapore state’s prosecution against me. As you may remember, in 2017,…

Posted by Shengwu Li on Wednesday, January 22, 2020

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