A Singapore court on Wednesday slapped a S$15,000 ($10,885) fine on Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s nephew, Li Shengwu, after finding him guilty of contempt of court for a 2017 social media post.
In the post on Facebook, Li, the son of the prime minister’s estranged brother Lee Hsien Yang, criticised Singapore’s judiciary as being “pliant” and its government “litigious”.
That post also contained a link to an April 2010 opinion article in The New York Times entitled “Censored in Singapore”, which criticised Singapore’s alleged “draconian press laws”.
“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,” High Court Judge Kannan Ramesh said in his decision. “It is axiomatic that this undermines confidence in the administration of justice.”
The judge said he found Li “guilty of scandalising contempt of court by the publication of the post.” The assistant professor of economics at Harvard University was not present during the contempt-of-court proceedings.
Li, who would spend a week in jail if he fails to pay the fine within two weeks, wrote on his Facebook page that he disagreed with the judge’s decision and that he is worried it will reinforce the tendency of the ruling People’s Action Party to “suppress ordinary political speech.”
Li’s father has been embroiled in a family spat with his prime minister uncle after the death of their father, Singapore’s first leader, Lee Kuan Yew, in 2015.
Lee Hsien Yang backed the opposition in a recent general election, specifically the Progress Singapore Party, pitting him against his older brother, who heads the ruling party.
According to local media reports, the court also ordered Li to pay S$16,570 in legal costs.