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Li Shengwu has contrived reasons for running away: AGC

Li Shengwu has contrived reasons for running away: AGC

Source: Straits Times
Article Date: 24 Jan 2020
Author: Linette Lai

Decision to stop taking part in proceedings is acknowledgement that 'defence has no merits'.

Economist Li Shengwu's decision to stop participating in contempt of court proceedings against him is "a clear acknowledgement that his defence has no merits", said the Attorney-General's Chambers (AGC) yesterday. "The reality is that Mr Li is now facing some serious questions in the hearing, and it is obvious that he knows that his conduct will not stand up to scrutiny. He has, therefore, contrived excuses for running away."

In 2017, Mr Li - the eldest son of Mr Lee Hsien Yang, who is the younger brother of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong - was served court papers in the United States over a Facebook post he had made earlier that year.

In the July 2017 post, Mr Li wrote that the Singapore Government is "very litigious and has a pliant court system". The post was made in relation to an ongoing family feud between PM Lee and his siblings over the fate of founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew's house at 38 Oxley Road.

In another Facebook post on Wednesday, Mr Li, an assistant professor of economics at Harvard University, said the AGC's case against him has continued for years.

"During that time, the AGC has submitted thousands of pages of legal documents over one paragraph on social media," he added.

He also said the AGC had applied to strike out parts of his affidavit, with the result that they will not be considered at the trial. It also demanded that these parts be sealed in the court record, so the public cannot know what the removed parts contain, Mr Li added.

"This is not an isolated incident, but part of a broader pattern of unusual conduct by the AGC," Mr Li wrote. "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."

He added that he will continue to regard his friends-only Facebook posts as private, and has removed his cousin Li Hongyi - PM Lee's son - from his Facebook friends list.

A key issue in Mr Li's appeal to quash the court order allowing papers to be served on him outside Singapore was whether a procedural rule - which specifically allows court papers for contempt to be served outside Singapore - can be applied retrospectively.

The Court of Appeal did not accept the AGC's argument that the rule could be applied retrospectively. It did, however, rule last April that the papers served against Mr Li were still valid.

The AGC noted yesterday: "Now, more than nine months later, he rehashes the same complaint.

"His basic objection is that he should not have been served with the cause papers at all. This is in reality a demand that he be treated differently from all others."

It added that striking-out applications are provided for in the rules of court and regularly made. In this case, Mr Li had filed an affidavit containing matters that were "scandalous and irrelevant to the issues in the case", the AGC said.

The High Court struck out parts of Mr Li's affidavit on Nov 22 last year, after hearing arguments from his lawyer and the AGC. At the time, he was ordered to re-file his affidavit. He complied. The AGC added that the timing of Mr Li's decision to not participate in further proceedings is "significant".

It had applied to cross-examine him on his affidavit and ask him questions about his post. He would also have been asked how many Facebook friends he had when he made the original post, and if they included members of the media.

"This is relevant to the question of whether Mr Li would reasonably have foreseen his post to be published by the media," it said. "Mr Li refused to answer these questions. The clear inference is that his answers would have been damaging to his case."

The AGC also said he should make himself available for cross-examination and answer questions under oath if he "has nothing to hide".

"The fact that Mr Li has chosen not to, at this point... and has contrived excuses to explain his decision, shows what he really thinks."

Responding to Mr Li Shengwu in a Facebook post last night, Mr Li Hongyi wrote: "I don't know what's going on between you and the government, but I've got nothing to do with it. Could you please leave me out of this?" He added that he has "really tried to not be involved as far as possible".

"If there's something I've done that's led you to believe otherwise, I would be happy to talk with you about it. It's a bit disconcerting to be repeatedly publicly accused of undermining democracy without understanding why," Mr Li Hongyi said. "I would prefer not to have done this over public Facebook posts. But I suppose that's how we communicate nowadays."

Separately, Mr Li Shengwu responded to the AGC's statement, which he said contained more allegations against him that are "false and spurious". "The AGC demands that I give them the identities of my Facebook friends. My position is this: Who my friends are is none of their business. My friends have a moral right to privacy," he said, adding that he would not "dignify the AGC's allegations with a detailed response".

Reacting to this later, the AGC said: "Tellingly, he has failed to state exactly which parts of the AGC's statement are supposedly false - because he cannot. The facts are clear and reflected in the court record.

"If he truly believes (as he claims) that any of the points made in the statement are false, or that he is not obliged to disclose whether his Facebook friends included members of the media, he should return to Singapore to defend the proceedings and let the Court decide where the truth lies."

Source: Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Permission required for reproduction.

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