Singapore PM’s Nephew Found Guilty of Contempt for Online Post

The nephew of Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has been found guilty of contempt of court and fined for a 2017 Facebook post, according to the Supreme Court’s oral judgment.

The decision on Wednesday concerns a post that Li Shengwu, an assistant professor of economics at Harvard University, says he made to friends on the social media platform on July 15, 2017. In it, he stated the Singapore government “is very litigious and has a pliant court system,” according to a press release by the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) earlier this month. The AGC said the post “did not constitute fair criticism” and “posed a real risk of undermining public confidence in the administration of justice.”

The High Court heard the AGC’s application for an order of committal against Li on July 2, after he announced he would no longer participate in the proceedings back in January, the statement reads. Li is the son of Lee Hsien Yang, the brother of the prime minister.

In his verdict on Wednesday, Judge Kannan Ramesh said if Li, who lives in the U.S., does not pay the S$15,000 ($10,881) fine within two weeks, he will have to serve a week in prison.

“It is clear that the post conveys the meaning that the judiciary is not independent and impartial, and is susceptible to influence or pressure from the government where legal proceedings are brought by its leaders,” Ramesh said. “It is axiomatic that this undermines confidence in the administration of justice.”

Discord in the Lee family has been simmering following the death of the country’s first prime minister, Lee Kuan Yew, in 2015. The conflict between the brothers centered on 38 Oxley Road, a colonial-era bungalow near the Orchard Road shopping belt in Singapore. Lee Hsien Yang formally joined a new opposition party a day after his estranged brother called for a general election. The poll, held on July 10, saw the ruling People’s Action Party winning 83 of 93 seats up for grabs.

In a Facebook post on Wednesday, Li said he disagreed with the judgment but did not reveal whether he would pay the fine.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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