SINGAPORE – Mr Li Shengwu’s lawyers are contending that the court order that allowed the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) to serve papers on their client in the United States should not stand.
The AGC had earlier served papers for contempt of court against Mr Li, who is the eldest son of Mr Lee Hsien Yang and nephew of the Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.
A pre-trial conference for the case was held at the High Court on Monday (Dec 4), attended by Senior Counsel Francis Ng for the AGC and Mr Li’s counsel, Mr Abraham Vergis of Providence Law.
In a statement on Monday, Providence Law said it had informed the court that it will apply to set aside the order that allowed the AGC to personally serve papers on Mr Li, 32, who is a junior fellow at Harvard University.
Noting that the court papers filed by the AGC exceeded 1,300 pages, the law firm said: “We explained we needed time to address the novel grounds which the AGC relied on to justify serving the papers out of jurisdiction.”
The court has directed that Mr Li file his application by Dec 22, and the next pre-trial conference for the case will take place on Jan 4.
Mr Vergis declined to comment further when contacted.
The case centres on a July 15 Facebook post by Mr Li, in which he said”the Singapore Government is very litigious and has a pliant court system”, and that foreign media had been cowed into self-censorship because of previous legal action.
The post was related to a public dispute between his father Lee Hsien Yang and aunt Lee Wei Ling on one side, and his uncle on the other, over the fate of their late father’s Oxley Road Home.
The AGC had written to Mr Li, calling the post an “egregious and baseless attack” on the judiciary and asking him to apologise. He declined, saying his post was private.
In a five-page letter he sent in reply, he contended that the post did not constitute contempt of court when read in context. He added that he had amended it to remove any misunderstanding, but would not take it down.
Among other things, Mr Li said his criticism was directed not at the judiciary but at the Singapore Government’s “aggressive use” of legal rules like defamation laws to constrain reporting by international media.
The AGC received permission from the court to initiate contempt of court proceedings in August.
Two prominent contempt of court cases in recent memory have ended in fines. Lawyer Eugene Thuraisingam was fined $6,000 in August, and blogger Alex Au was fined $8,000 in 2015 – both for comments that undermined confidence in the judiciary.