Li Shengwu says he will not return home to face contempt of court proceedings

Li Shengwu says he will not return home to face contempt of court proceedings

li shengwu
Mr Li Shengwu giving an eulogy at the funeral of Mr Lee Kuan Yew. (Photo: Screengrab via Prime Minister's Office/YouTube) 

SINGAPORE: Mr Li Shengwu, who will face contempt of court proceedings for comments he made suggesting the city-state's courts were not independent, said on Saturday (Aug 5) he would not be returning to Singapore.

The office of Singapore's attorney-general said on Friday it had filed an application to start contempt of court proceedings against Li, a US-based academic, over a Facebook post he made on Jul 15. The legal move is the latest twist in a family feud over the fate of late Singapore founding father Lee Kuan Yew's house that gripped the nation last month.

In his post, Mr Li, nephew of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and eldest son of Lee's brother, Mr Lee Hsien Yang, described the Singapore Government as "litigious" and the courts as "pliant".

Li, 32, is currently a junior fellow at Harvard University and told Reuters he expected to commence an assistant professor position with the university in the fall of 2018.

He said he would seek to defend himself through legal representation in Singapore but would not be returning to the country.

"I have no intention of going back to Singapore. I have a happy life and a fulfilling job in the US," he told Reuters in an interview.

Mr Li on Saturday (Aug 5) also posted on Facebook his reply to AGC on Aug 4, reiterating that the Jul 15 post was set as private. In his letter, he stated that an anonymous Facebook user posted publicly an unauthorised screen shot of his post.

"This user is not on my Facebook 'Friends' list," he said. "I do not know how this user obtained the screenshot of my private post."


To this latest post, the AGC replied on Saturday saying it received the document after the extended deadline of 5pm on Aug 4. "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."

It added that as the matter is now before the court, it will not be commenting further.  

In a statement on Friday, the Attorney-General's Chambers said it had previously instructed Li to remove the post and issue a letter of apology acknowledging that his comments about the judiciary were baseless.

It said Li had failed to meet those requirements by the stipulated deadline on Friday, which had been pushed back from Jul 28 at Li's request.

"As Mr Li has failed to purge the contempt and to apologise by the extended deadline, an application for leave to commence committal proceedings for contempt against him will today be filed in the High Court," the statement said.

POST AMENDED FOR CLARIFICATION

Earlier on Friday, Li said on Facebook he had amended his original Jul 15 post to clarify any misunderstandings. However, he said he did not believe the post was in contempt of court.

Li's Jul 15 post was shared on a privacy setting that allows content to only be viewed by his Facebook friends. He said on Friday the intent of that post was to convey the "international media were restricted in their ability to report" on a recent feud between PM Lee and his siblings "due to the litigious nature" of the government.

"It is not my intent to attack the Singapore judiciary or to undermine public confidence in the administration of justice," he said.

The public spat between the Lee siblings, children of Lee Kuan Yew, flared in June over the future of the family home and raised questions about governance in the city-state.

Mr Lee Hsien Yang and sister Lee Wei Ling accused their elder brother of abusing his powers, prompting the prime minister to call a two-day debate during the parliament session in July to "clear the air" over an issue that some people say has tarnished Singapore's image.

Source: Reuters/CNA/kk

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