“Friends only” Facebook post does not entitle Shengwu to claim privacy: AGC

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The fact that the privacy settings of Li Shengwu’s Facebook post is restricted to “friends only” does not seem to matter to the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) which has argued that the privacy settings of the late Lee Kuan Yew’s grandson’s post does not entitle him to claim privacy.

The AGC is taking issue with a private Facebook post the 32-year-old had made on 15 July this year, saying “the Singapore Government is very litigious and has a pliant court system”.

The AGC claimed that Shengwu’s post was in contempt of court and that it undermined the judicial system here.

Filing written submissions in the High Court, the AGC further clarified its arguments for initiating legal proceedings against the 32-year-old. It argued:

1. It should be taken that Shengwu was fully aware that his post could be broadcast to be a larger audience given the fact that he uploaded the post on Facebook.

2. While there is no proof that Shengwu posted the message while he was in Singapore, the AGC claims “it is irrelevant whether the material was posted outside Singapore. Since it can be accessed in Singapore, its publication occurs in Singapore.”

3. The AGC also pointed to the fact that Shengwu amended his post to clarify the meaning of “pliant court system” after the he had uploaded the original comment. The AGC claimed that this showed he was aware his comments may be open to being misunderstood.

Interestingly, it appears that Shengwu only amended his post after pressure from the AGC.

The AGC further claimed that a US firm tried 11 times on seven different occasions between 2-14 Oct to personally serve Shengwu – who resides in the US – papers, to no avail.

Shengwu’s lawyers sought more time this week to address the “novel grounds” under which the AGC served Shengwu papers out of jurisdiction.

Interestingly, the AGC also argued that it is not necessary to prove Shengwu intended to undermine public confidence. It claimed that the case should proceed as long as it can be proven that he intentionally published the post.

It also branded this intentional act “indisputable”.

The case so far

Shengwu attracted the attention of the AGC on 15 July after posting a private “friends-only” Facebook post, criticising Singapore’s government and judiciary.

Linking a Wall Street Journal article that offered a thorough analysis of the public Oxley Rd feud, Shengwu had said in his own words: “Keep in mind, of course that the Singapore government is very litigious and has a pliant court system. This constrains what the international media can usually report.”

He then linked a New York Times article on censorship and the use of defamation laws by both Lee Kuan Yew and Lee Hsien Loong to censor the foreign press.

In responding to media queries about Shengwu’s private post, an AGC spokesperson had said then, “AGC is aware of the post and is looking into the matter.”

Shengwu’s post followed the explosive Oxley Road dispute, in which his father Lee Hsien Yang and paternal aunt Dr Lee Wei Ling had been embroiled in a public feud against their elder brother, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

The PM’s younger siblings alleged that the PM was abusing his power to preserve their family home against their father’s willed desire to demolish the house, in June and July this year.

They also accused the PM of convened a secret committee to make a decision on the house and claimed that state organs were being used against them.

PM Lee addressed the allegations against him in a Parliamentary debate where he declared that he has been cleared of all charges. He added that he does not intend to sue his siblings.

Lee Wei Ling and Lee Hsien Yang reinforced their allegations, following this, but offered a ceasefire on releasing further evidence in favor of settling the matter in private, on the condition that they nor their father’s will be attacked or misrepresented.

Dr Lee Wei Ling has come out in support of her nephew when Shengwu’s post caught the eye of the AGC. Sharing his post on her Facebook page, she wondered whether government staff are used to monitor her family’s private musings and suggested that this case could be an example of how Singapore may be governed by a “big brother” system:

I am surprised that AGC takes such negative reaction to a private post. Is there a government servant whose duty is to follow the Facebook activity of all people related to Hsien Yang and I, including our private musings. Also, what Shengwu posted is a common topic amongst Singaporeans who are well informed. Is this not an example of ” big Brother government”. Perhaps it is a case of “if the hat fits, take it.”

Shortly thereafter, the AGC filed an application in the High Court for leave to commence committal proceedings against Shengwu for “contempt of court in connection with the publication of a Facebook post.”

32-year-old Shengwu – who is a junior fellow at Harvard University in the USA and is expected to become a associate professor at the University next year – has asserted that he has no intention to disrupt his “happy” and “fulfilling” life in the US by returning to Singapore to face the legal proceedings initiated by the AGC.

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128 comments

  1. Facebook Profile photo
    Lester Kok ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Free-Speech Activism Takes A Beating In Singapore: The Amos Yee Knock-On Effect

    What does Amos Yee’s Sept. appellate affirmation of asylum in the States have to do with a rash of ongoing criminal investigations/charges of late in Singapore against peaceable remonstrations? — everything!

    In late Sept., through a fortunate stroke of serendipity, the Singapore teenage hellion Amos Yee prevailed over DHS’s appeal (Dept. of Homeland Security). This happens after DHS’s acting Secretary Elaine Duke decided against further appealing the ill-conceived asylum granted to Amos in late March by Immigration Judge Cole; acting Secretary Elaine Duke temporarily assumed DHS’s top job as of July when then DHS Secretary John Kelly, a 4-star Marine General, acceded to the post of White House Chief of Staff. In a word, the Amos’ ‘final win’ is a black swan event, utterly unanticipated by the Singapore gov. This came about because of the near total disarray in the Trump Admin whose various key executive departments are literally at sixes and sevens with the Oval Office, in particular the DOJ which in effect OK’d Amos’ asylum bid in late September. (The Dept. of Justice is headed by Attorney General Jeff Sessions whom President Trump has bruited about wanting him fired, on more than one occasion.) [ https://lester978.wordpress.com/2017/10/23/how-amos-yee-beat-the-u-s-asylum-system-the-unfinished-story-of-a-teen-brat-from-singapore/ ]

    ……………………………………………………………….
    https://lester978.wordpress.com/2017/12/18/free-speech-activism-takes-a-beating-in-singapore-the-amos-yee-knock-on-effect/

  2. Pat Chong says:

    I used to be so proud to tell others I am a Singaporean & has been so proud in every National Day untill LHL came into the story….now its an embarrassment to admit I am a Singaporen. Everything he or his wife say n do is such embarrassment. Even most of the ministers in PAP behave the same….so sad….they made Singapore a laughing stock…

  3. Andrew Koh says:

    Our courts can rule that comments in FB private settings can still be considered as contempt its interpretation of Singapore laws. This is how things work here. And 70% voted for this.

  4. Lim LG says:

    FB IS AN US PLATFORM. IF THE ROTTON GOVT WANTS TO CHARGE PPL, PERHAPS THEY SHOULD CONSULT FB OFFICIALS RE THE MEANINGS OF “FRIENDS ONLY” IN THE RIGHT SETTING AND DON’T MAKE A FOOL OF THEMSELVES.

  5. White Dogs Government is simply a dictatorship taking whatever laws into their own hands. Jokers family but do they care? Nope cos they are earning your hard-earned money & putting into their own pockets & enjoying life to the fullest.

  6. Ke Man says:

    40 years ago, the old folks said if anyone scold the PAP and the police will make an arrest, this is still true now. Our govt has not learn to be more mature.

  7. Anything posted on FB is considered just personal opinion. If we cannot even share our personal opinion, we are no different from north Korea. Just look at Donald trump. The media are attacking him most of the times. We really need to vote wisely whether we want this kind of north Korea style government.

  8. Facebook Profile photo
    YMe YMe ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    When Indian Halimah pretend to be Malay candidate, AGC do not even bother.
    Pretend NOTHING has happened.
    Now, are we moving towards North Korea style execution?
    AGC, lots of Indian in IT izit?!

  9. Jim Lion says:

    There is no freedom of speech in SG not even privacy among friends. Reminds one of George Orwell’s 1984 where Big Brother is everywhere listening to everything. Yet LHL said that Sinkies are free to express their different opinions, etc.

  10. Chee Lee says:

    The 70% will continue to keep LHL and PAP in power. LHL knows that and he is removing all obstacles in order to groom Li Hongyi to take over despite all the denials.

  11. Kenny Tan says:

    Making way for his own son…Delete all possible threats…This has always been his style…Nothing new…No one is left out including his own brothers and relatives…Either u are with him or he will delete u away…

  12. James Pang says:

    Wow I didn’t know Sg AGC owns Facebook to say:

    “Friends only” Facebook post does not entitle Shengwu to claim privacy”

    Why don’t the AGC challenge FB regarding this? Lol

  13. Excuses excuses excuses, nothing else but that. Don’t think that Singaporeans are all stupid idiots? Very very wrong move here, it will only make thinks worse & shatter the confidence of everybody. Not a very smart decision here.!!!

    1. That answer should be confirmed by Lee Sian Loong himself because he does not dare to be transparent enough to reveal more. So as far as reserves are concerned if more taxes are to be increased like recently in so many areas all of a sudden, shouldn’t any typical Singaporean be alarmed? Indirectly it does give u a negative impression that our reserves are not healthy since they always have a habit of covering up & choosing not to be transparent about it. By protecting & believing the Govt. all the time does allow them to be confident enough to abuse their authority thus misusing it to their advantage always. What is more important here is justification & taking great pains when a sudden increase in so many areas come about without explanation. We can go on arguing until our last days here but u & your merry men are not going to convince the likes of me or other similar types. Everybody is entitled to their opinions including u but don’t forget u do not have the authority or privilege to force others to think like u & your kind.

    2. Lim Tian Guan is our reserves shaky or low?

      Excessive use and abuse of authority are subjective. But what I do know it’s human nature, you’ve got the power you’ll use it.
      And it is human nature to protect yourself and sometimes those close to you if one is capable of empathy.

    3. Michael Lum u are missing the point here. Nobody is insinuating that we are all out to advocate living in a country without laws here. It’s the excessive use or abuse of authority here that makes it ridiculous especially when it uses tax payer’s money that makes it look bad in the eyes of the public. Once this is done often enough & is getting carried away with it, then the harm is there. After that when u get the to hear that our our Reserves are low & increased taxes are needed which person will not be pissed off? Things like building T5 for example, is it necessary at such times when knowing Reserves are shaky? Can’ t it wait? Looks more like showing off without proper backing. Such bad irresponsibility!!

    4. Jeffrey L. Wu humans cannot be trusted to know what to do all the time. Therefore laws are needed to tow them in line sometimes.

      You want an example, well, switch off all traffic lights on the street. See if there’ll be massive jams and accidents.

    5. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion otherwise this world would be such a boring place with all people with a one-track mind. Don’t forget there’s such a think as called “basic human rights” & nobody who is ordinary, is above others by judging them. Get the picture? It’s just a repetition of your slogan above the law.

      1. Facebook Profile photo
        James Bong ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

        I’m much more confident of the imminent collapse of the pap leegime, and I am impartial about it. History of despots collapse will repeat in sinkapoor. Just you wait.

  14. Lee Beniot says:

    singapore jurdicial system is becoming a world’s joke.. how can a court penalize someone’s comment on a facebook about the SG court which we all already know is corrupt.

    1. Facebook Profile photo
      James Bong ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

      We all already know how corrupt it has become, as testified by wei ling and Hsien yang. Only the powers that be chose to bury their head in the sand. Wait for the Typhoon that will soon hit the leegime. I was told it’s coming fast and furious from Hongkong!

    1. He write it in his fb page just talking to his friends but didn’t make public right? Is someone see his fb purposely take it out to nail him down n reported about him.

  15. Calvin Koh says:

    Isn’t “Friend only” already privacy mode? If not, what’s the privacy mode for?

    Which part is so difficult to understand?

    What kind of interpretation and common sense does some people exhibit?

  16. Grandfather is not here to help. Too bad now brother fight against brothers n sister. Family soon broke into pieces and turns into blood enemy. This is karma working against the old man.

    1. Willy Kou says:

      This reminds me of the Mighty Qin dynasty. The First Emperor of Qin is a great man who united the whole China and built the great wall of China. But his dynasty doesn’t even last 2 generation. It fell in the 2nd generation during his son’s reign.

    2. Terrie Tan says:

      Christine, i’m not superstitious but the universe does throw things back at you in a very special way, and to think LSW was the late old man’s favourite grandchild.

    1. Yet ObiWan and D’Kuek are advocating for the top management to NOT BE RESPONSIBLE for their actions. Always easier to blame someone else for your screw ups. And speaking of responsibility and throwing accountability into the fray, where is the gazillions of billions that was lost? Where is the transparency?Is the cabinet or whomever is supposedly to oversee or have financial oversight in how monies are mismanaged advocating for the top management to NOT BE RESPONSIBLE for their actions? Enuff said.

    2. Terrie Tan says:

      Erm, actually Michael, they first did away with real risk test as a precedent by codifying it into “risk”. Then a friends-only post got circulated (like a private email forwarded or copy and pasted, in this case a screenshot someone sent to the authorities) – all of this is on tenuous legal ground. If it were as clear cut as you make it out to be, why have a hefty 1,300 pages of text? Obviously they had to play twister to justify putting a charge on his head.

      Sure, he’s accountable for his actions, as we all are, but this isn’t in question. By yelling in “CAPS”, it doesn’t prove you have any more of a point to make other than state the bloody obvious.

    3. Well he can only be blemished because he chose to do it to himself.

      It’s not like someone posted the comments on his account without his knowledge. So he is merely healed accountable for his own decision.

      Are you advocating for everyone to NOT BE RESPONSIBLE for their actions? Always easier to blame someone else for your screw ups?

  17. Danny Ng says:

    Maybe facebook shoud clarify the meaning of private or anyone in cambridge to correct the Queen’s English whether private means private. Submission of doubt???

  18. David Chow says:

    AGC you are making an ASSHOLE, with hemorrhoids, of yourselves.
    You’re doing a great job undermining yourselves and confidence of the public. “Way to go… High Five!”
    Notwithstanding your argument “Friends only” Facebook post does not entitle Shengwu to claim privacy”, PRIVACY IS TO BE, IF NOT MUST. BE RESPECTED. THAT’S AN ENTITLEMENT.
    The respect of his privacy that he is entitled to has been violated by those that disseminated his post and made it public.
    Seriously, tuck that tail and leave while you can, before those hemorrhoids flares up even more.

  19. The state of affairs in this country is so sad!!!!! We are heading into a forthcoming economic headwind and our elites are still pussy footing around with irrational exuberance on petty matters and splitting hairs on inconsequential matters

    1. David Chow says:

      Michael G R Lum You think? I think not. You forget, trials are conducted and determine by jurors, jurors of Shengwu’s peers.
      The judge passes sentence, but no say in decision of verdict.
      Unless Shengwu waives his rights to juror.
      You still think AGC will win? LOL

      “selecting ‘friends only’ is not a privacy setting, it’s an audience settings”
      “Friends Only”, an exclusive audience, an inner circle away from general public. Learn the concept of privacy, not just the word. 😛

    2. David Chow says:

      Andrew Toh not to mention, trial by peers (Juror). I’m pretty certain Shengwu will demand for that and get it, and I’ll bet his peers will sway his way.

    3. Andrew Toh says:

      Yes but does the AGC have legal standing in USA? They also have to go by US law and US legal standards, not Singaporean law standards. The burden of proof will wholly be on the AGC. They will find out they have bitten off more than they can chew, they are playing with the big boys now, not in their pathetic little sandbox.

    4. Even in US court, AGC will win. If you read FB’s fine prints you’ll know, once you post contents on your FB, it becomes FB’s property and it is public.

      You can choose not to post anything on your account if you want it to be private. In addition, selecting ‘friends only’ is not a privacy setting, it’s an audience settings

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