Hong Kong Media: Sudden Search of Jimmy Lai’s Home “Political Persecution”
The peaceful Occupy Central movement, fighting for universal suffrage of Hong Kong, will start on Aug 31. This Thursday morning, Hong Kong’s Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) suddenly visited three homes, including that of Jimmy Lai, the owner of Next Media, and Lee Cheuk-yan, Labor party chairman. The move claimed to investigate whether Lai’s donation to the Labor party violated bribery law.
Lai is a firm supporter of the Occupy Central movement, and has made donations to Lee Cheuk-yan and others. The high-profile move by the ICAC was made at such a critical moment, and was thus described as “political persecution” in media reports.
A number of lawyers and media workers also arrived at Lai’s home after they learned about the news. ICAC officers stayed for four hours and did not take away anyone.
The home of Mark Simon, Lai’s assistant, was also searched by the ICAC. ICAC officers stayed at Simon’s home for three hours, searching all computers but did not take away any files. They only took a computer of Simon’s daughter, which was protected by password.
Later at about 10am, they visited his office located inside the Legislative Council. Some files and bank account records were taken away.
The report said, the incident was the aftermath of a hacking attack against Next Media’s computer system. A large number of Jimmy Lai’s private files were stolen.
At the end of July, a mysterious person calling himself “Next Media’s shareholder”, released thousands of stolen files to the public.
That person said, Lai had donated 40 million HKD ($5.2 M) to pro-democracy groups, and the Labor party obtained 1.5 million HKD ($190,000).
According to the search warrant that ICAC officers showed to Lee Cheuk-yan, the search was directed against Lai’s donation to the Labor party, investigating whether the donation is related to the Jan 22 debate on press freedom in the Legislative Council.
Lee Cheuk-yan said, in his speech at the council, he not only mentioned Apple Daily but also Radio AM730 about how their major clients suddenly canceled advertisements.
Lee also talked about the knife attack against Lau Chun-to, Ming Pao’s former editor-in-chief.
Lee Cheuk-yan, Chairman of Labor Party: “For a long time, we always had a very, very clear attitude of protecting Hong Kong’s press freedom.
Probably most of us don’t understand how donations can be related to press freedom?”
A Hong Kong Economic Journal’s report said, Lee Cheuk-yan described Jimmy Lai as a “special businessman” in an interview in early August, saying Lai supported democracy groups but never interfered with political affairs.
Lee also admitted that Lai is the biggest individual donor to pro-democracy groups. In 2013, his party had received two donations totaling 1.5 million HKD from Lai.
Jimmy Lai, president of Next Media Group: ”I do my best to support those I believe do the right thing for Hong Kong. Many people say I am disturbing Hong Kong’s peace. They can say whatever they want to say. However, my donations are simply to support pro-democracy groups. I really just want to support them.”
Lai said he earned every cent rightfully through his business, and he would continue to donate to pro-democracy groups in the future.
Stephen Char, former ICAC chief investigator: “They connect donations with protecting press freedom, but that is one of Hong Kong’s core values that anyone can talk about.”
How can you link those two things?
Furthermore, Lee had defended himself that he was only the representative of Labor Party to receive the money.”
ICAC’s sudden move was widely labeled as political persecution in media reports. A Pro-democracy group member, who is familiar with ICAC’s working style, said that was probably a cooperative move with Beijing’s suppression against the Occupy Central movement, in order to stop pro-democracy groups from resisting Beijing’s plan.
On Aug 27, the CCP’s National People’s Congress (NPC) announced the draft on so-called “universal suffrage” for Hong Kong’s Chief Executive.
The plan will force out all candidates from pro-democracy groups. Tai Yiu Ting, promoter of the Occupy Central, said the CCP’s so-called “universal suffrage” plan is hopeless. He announced that when the NPC makes the final decision on Aug 31, the democracy groups will gather in front of Hong Kong government and start the Occupy Central movement.
Lester Shum, vice president of Hong Kong Federation of Students, said the CCP’s plan will completely destroy all Hong Kong people’s efforts toward democracy in the past 30 years. The federation will start an overall strike no sooner than mid-September.
Zhang Dejiang, the CCP’s Politburo Standing Committee member in charge of Hong Kong affairs, had claimed that the party “is mentally prepared” for the upcoming Occupy Central movement.
Last July, the CCP’s militaries carried out drills at Gun Club Hill Barracks of suppressing Central occupiers with shields and clubs.
On Aug 23, netizens took photos in Shenzhen’s Nanshan District that seemingly captured a drill of suppressing massive protest by the CCP’s troops stationed in Hong Kong.
Interview & Edit/LiYun Post-Production/XiaoYan