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Li Shengwu agrees to pay S$15,000 fine for contempt of court, but won't admit guilt

SINGAPORE — After being fined S$15,000 for scandalising the judiciary in a 2017 Facebook post, Mr Li Shengwu said on Tuesday (Aug 11) that he would pay the fine “in order to buy some peace and quiet”, but added that he does not “admit guilt”.

Li Shengwu agrees to pay S$15,000 fine for contempt of court, but won't admit guilt

In a Facebook post uploaded a day before the fine was due, Mr Li said: “Paying the fine avoids giving the Singapore government an easy excuse to attack me and my family."

  • Mr Li, who is the nephew of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, said in a Facebook post that he would pay the S$15,000 fine, a day before it was due.
  • In 2017, Mr Li put up a Facebook post under a friends-only setting and wrote that the Singapore Government was “very litigious” and has a “pliant court system”.
  • He was found guilty for contempt of court on July 29 and was ordered to pay the fine within two weeks or serve a week’s jail in default.

 

SINGAPORE — After being fined S$15,000 for scandalising the judiciary in a 2017 Facebook post, Mr Li Shengwu said on Tuesday (Aug 11) that he would pay the fine “in order to buy some peace and quiet”, but added that he does not “admit guilt”.

In a Facebook post uploaded a day before the fine was due, the nephew of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said: “Paying the fine avoids giving the Singapore government an easy excuse to attack me and my family.

“I do not admit guilt. I have never denied writing what I wrote, to my friends in a private Facebook post.”

In 2017, Mr Li put up a Facebook post under a friends-only setting and wrote that the Singapore Government was “very litigious” and has a “pliant court system”.

He was commenting on the dispute between his father Lee Hsien Yang, his aunt Lee Wei Ling, and his uncle, PM Lee, over the fate of the home of his grandfather, the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew, at 38 Oxley Road.

The assistant economics professor at Harvard University, who is based in the United States, was found guilty for contempt of court last month.

He was ordered to pay the fine of S$15,000 within two weeks or serve a week’s jail in default, and was also ordered to pay S$16,570 in costs for the legal proceedings.

Justice Kannan Ramesh said in July that it is clear that Mr Li’s post conveys that the judiciary is “not independent and impartial, and is susceptible to influence or pressure from the Government” when legal proceedings are brought by its leaders.

“It is axiomatic that this undermines confidence in the administration of justice,” he added.

Justice Kannan imposed the default jail sentence after finding Mr Li’s case similar to that of activist Jolovan Wham and opposition politician John Tan, who were also fined for scandalising the judiciary. 

ABOUT THE CASE

Mr Li uploaded the post while in Singapore. After failing to comply with requests by the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) to apologise and delete the post, AGC began legal proceedings against him for scandalising the judiciary. 

In February this year, the High Court dismissed his application to set aside the various questions that AGC had posed to him. 

These included how many Facebook friends he had, who they were, and how many of them were reporters.

Written legal submissions on the application were due a week before Mr Li’s February hearing. 

However, he wrote on Facebook on Jan 22 that he would no longer take part in the legal proceedings.

AGC said in July that to date, he has refused to answer its questions under oath or produce certain documents referred to in his defence affidavit filed on Sept 24 last year. 

In his post, Mr Li said that his decision to refrain from future participation was due to AGC’s actions in court.

In particular, he singled out AGC’s application to strike out parts of his defence affidavit, such that they would not be considered during the trial. 

The next day, AGC said in response that parts of Mr Li’s defence affidavit had been struck out because it contained matters that were scandalous and irrelevant to the issues in the case.

It also said that his decision to withdraw from the case was to avoid the prospect of answering questions under oath and disclosing information. 

The High Court ruled to strike out parts of Mr Li’s affidavit in November last year. 

Neither Mr Li nor AGC specified the parts of his affidavit that had been removed. 

Mr Li had also previously appealed the High Court’s decision to allow AGC to serve legal papers on him in the US.

The Court of Appeal ruled in April last year that the papers had been properly served.

The AGC argued that the risk of his post being republished was “entirely foreseeable”. 

At the time, the Oxley Road saga was fresh in the public’s mind and his “inflammatory comments” meant that the “potential for widespread dissemination is very clear”.

The post in question remains up on Mr Li’s page but the phrase “pliant court system” has been removed.

Deputy Chief Counsel Low Siew Ling argued earlier last month that Mr Li did not publicly clarify or disclose what the amendment to his post was, as he “clearly intends for the sting of the post to remain in the public domain”.

The fact that he later amended the post was also “telling because it shows he accepts the original post could carry a contemptuous meaning”, Ms Low added.

Mr Li had also sent his defence affidavit to several “selected” foreign media organisations in breach of the Supreme Court’s practice directions, as well as Singapore news outlet CNA after Hong Kong newspaper South China Morning Post published an article on the affidavit. 

In a Facebook post on July 29, following the court's judgment, Mr Li wrote that he disagreed with the judgment and was worried that it will "reinforce the PAP's (People's Action Party's) tendency to suppress ordinary political speech".

"In response to three words in a private Facebook post, the government has wasted three years of civil servants' time," he wrote. 

Related topics

Li Shengwu Lee Hsien Loong Lee Hsien Yang contempt of court 38 Oxley Road

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