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AGC begins contempt of court proceedings against Li Shengwu

SINGAPORE — The Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) has commenced legal proceedings against Harvard academic Li Shengwu, the son of Mr Lee Hsien Yang, for contempt of court in relation to his Facebook post on July 15.

AGC begins contempt of court proceedings against Li Shengwu

The Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) said on Friday (Aug 4) that it is commencing contempt of court proceedings against Mr Li Shengwu, son of Mr Lee Hsien Yang, in connection with his Facebook post on July 15. Photo: Li Sheng Wu/Facebook

SINGAPORE — The Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) has commenced legal proceedings against Harvard academic Li Shengwu, the son of Mr Lee Hsien Yang, for contempt of court in relation to his Facebook post on July 15.

The AGC said it took legal action on Friday (Aug 4) as Mr Li had "failed to purge the contempt and to apologise by the extended deadline”.

The academic on Saturday published his latest letter to the AGC, dated August 4, where he said his Facebook post had been taken "completely out of context" and that he had been misunderstood.

He reiterated that it was a private post meant for his friends, and that he was not responsible for the widespread re-publication of its content.

In response, an AGC spokesperson said they received Mr Li's latest letter after the extended deadline of 5pm on August 4. The spokesperson added: "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.

"As the matter is now before the Court, we are unable to comment further."  

In his July 15 post, Mr Li had posted a link to a Wall Street Journal article on the 38 Oxley Road dispute involving his father, aunt, Dr Lee Wei Ling, and uncle, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong. He described the article as a “good” summary, and likened the public disagreements over his late grandfather’s house to a “political crisis”.

In the same post, Mr Li added a second link to a New York Times commentary titled “Censored in Singapore” alleging media censorship in Singapore, published on April 3, 2010, and wrote: "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."

In its statement on Friday night, the AGC said it had sent a warning letter to Mr Li on July 21.

The letter asked that he “purge the contempt” by doing the following by 5pm on July 28:
* Removing the post in question from his social media platforms
* Prominently posting on his Facebook page a written apology and undertaking drafted in the terms of the AGC's letter.

"The (Facebook post on July 15) is an egregious and baseless attack on the Singapore Judiciary and constitutes an offence of contempt of court," the AGC wrote in its warning letter to Mr Li. A copy of the letter was released by the AGC alongside its statement on Friday.

The AGC further noted in its July 21 letter that the “clear meaning” of Mr Li's Facebook post is that “the Singapore judiciary acts on the direction of the Singapore Government, is not independent, and has ruled and will continue to rule in favour of the Singapore Government in any proceedings, regardless of the merits of the case”.

Mr Li responded in his August 4 letter by writing: "AGC appears to have read an entire paragraph from a single word. AGC has misunderstood me."

In his earlier letter to the AGC on July 27, a copy of which was released to the media on Friday, Mr Li had asked for the deadline to be extended by a week “so that (he) may seek advice and respond”.

The AGC said it took legal action after Mr Li failed to "purge the contempt and to apologise by the extended deadline".

Earlier on Friday, Mr Li posted a public post on Facebook to say that he had no intention 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," Mr Li wrote in his latest second post.

He added that he had amended his July 15 Facebook post to clarify what he meant to say, and "to avoid any misunderstanding of my original private post".

He did not change the setting of that earlier post to allow it to be publicly accessible. Mr Li said someone had taken an "unauthorised screenshot" of that initial private post on July 15, and published it online without his permission.

He further explained his comments in that July 15 post, adding: "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."

Read the AGC's press statement and letter in full:

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