Li Shengwu’s appeal against High Court decision allowed; public hearing of case to be held

The son of Mr Lee Hsien Yang and the nephew of Prime Minister Mr Lee Hsien Loong has been granted leave to have a court order by the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) dismissed in a ruling by the Court of Appeal yesterday (3 Sep).

In Mr Li’s impending open court hearing, the issue of procedural rule, that is, whether the decision for court papers for contempt to be served outside Singapore may be applied retroactively, will be argued, in light of the codification of the law of contempt through the Administration of Justice (Protection) Act on 1 Oct last year.

Yesterday, the issue of whether the Singapore High Court has jurisdiction over a foreign-based defendant and the basis of the jurisdiction was repeatedly raised by a three-judge apex court. The court then gave Mr Li permission to appeal after hearing the arguments raised by both Mr Li and the AGC.

Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon, alongside Judges of Appeal Judith Prakash and Steven Chong, outlined two other issues for the parties to address during the appeal, namely whether there was any statutory basis for the court to exercise substantive jurisdiction over someone who was overseas at the time the contempt proceedings started, and whether there are any other rules that could apply to confer jurisdiction.

No date has been fixed for the appeal hearing.

However, Chief Justice Menon said that the hearing should be held as soon as possible and not be “left hanging”, as it concerned an important question.

The AGC initiated legal proceedings against Mr Li over “contempt of court” on 21 Aug last year, in which he had privately posted a statement on his Facebook, saying that “the Singapore government is very litigious and has a pliant court system”.

The post was related to the high-profile Lee family dispute surrounding the Oxley Road home of Li’s late grandfather and Singapore’s founding Prime Minister Mr Lee Kuan Yew, in which Mr Lee Hsien Yang, his aunt Ms Lee Wei Ling, and Mr Lee Hsien Loong were involved.

In a Facebook post yesterday (3 Sep), Mr Lee Hsien Yang pointed out the apparent unfairness in the AGC’s treatment of his son, Mr Li Shengwu, stating that despite “much stronger criticism of Singapore courts has recently been published in some international media and widely shared public posts”, the AGC, in his view, has not taken any legal action against such entities for publishing and spreading such posts.

Mr Lee Hsien Yang also highlighted that proceedings are unjustly held against his son over “his private communications”, as the Facebook post was “shared only with his friends”, unlike the public criticism often aired by international media and even other individuals.