News / Asia

Hong Kong Officials Raid Home of Media Mogul Critical of Beijing

FILE - Jimmy Lai, chairman and founder of Next Media, speaks during an exclusive interview with Reuters in Taipei.
FILE - Jimmy Lai, chairman and founder of Next Media, speaks during an exclusive interview with Reuters in Taipei.
VOA News

Hong Kong anti-corruption officials have raided the home of media mogul Jimmy Lai, whose publications are often critical of mainland China.

The early Thursday raid comes after local media this month published reports claiming Lai made major donations to pro-democracy lawmakers. Lai denies any wrongdoing. There are no laws in Hong Kong that require the disclosure of political donations.

Speaking outside his home, Lai confirmed that his home was raided, but offered no other details.

“ICAC [Anti-graft agency Independent Commission Against Corruption] was here, and they are all gone now, and there's no further comment,” he said.

Officials also raided the home of pro-democracy lawmaker Lee Cheuk-yan, chairman of the pro-democracy  Labor Party.

Many in the semi-autonomous Chinese region are concerned at what they see as the erosion of press freedom, as well as the Communist Party’s insistence that it vet candidates for Hong Kong’s 2017 election.

Ma Yue, an associate professor of political science at Chinese University of Hong Kong, says the investigation could send a chilling message.

“I believe many people will think this is a political crackdown. The pro-Beijing [parties] received much more in donations than pro-democracy [groups]. But it does not seem to cause any controversy," Ma said. "The difference is, Jimmy Lai is the largest financing source of pro-democracy [supporters]."

Tan Zhiqiang, a Hong Kong media commentator, says the raid is likely to backfire.

“The investigation brings pro-democracy [supporters] a boost of motivation, which is the opposite effect they want. The move will certainly arouse concern in the international media industry since Jimmy Lai is such a media tycoon,” Tan said.

Occupy Central protesters have held a series of major demonstrations and are threatening to take over the financial district if Beijing does not promise to allow a fully democratic election.

Lai owns a wide range of publications that have often been supportive of the protests. Following the raid, shares in Lai’s Next Media Ltd. fell as much as six percent before trading was halted.

Da Hai Han contributed to this report from Hong Kong, This report was produced in collaboration with the VOA Mandarin service.

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Comment Sorting
by: Frankie Fook-lun Leung from: Los Angeles
August 29, 2014 2:10 PM
Jimmy Lai's corporation Next Media hire an American Mark Simon who has close connections with the US Republican Party. His house was raided too. China sees Lai using foreign connections to seek protection. Does this type of protection work? At least Lai's raid appears in all major English-speaking countries newspapers, even an op ed page of Wall Street Journal the next day. You can't say it does not work.

by: Frankie Fook-lun Leung from: Los Angeles
August 28, 2014 1:49 PM
China is trying to develop soft power. One empty chair at the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony would cost how much? One event like raiding a media person crticising the government will cost more. Why does government care so little about the negative publicity hurting China's international image. Hong Kong is in the eyes of the world community.
In Response

by: William li from: Canada
August 29, 2014 8:55 AM
China did everything to keep this big country stable and united which is the very reason China can grow so fast. Good job China! We don't want to live in a country like Iraq or Ukraine! Go China go!

by: Frankie Fook-lun Leung from: Los Angeles
August 28, 2014 12:33 PM
Soon every newspaper reads like Global Times and Ta Kung Pao. What happens to one country two systems? Hong Kong is another Chengdu.

by: william li from: canada
August 28, 2014 12:32 PM
good job, HK!

by: Frankie Fook-lun Leung from: Los Angeles
August 28, 2014 12:29 PM
The Hong Kong government thinks that this kind of fear-inducement tactics would frighten Lai and any other individuals or parties criticizing the government and Beijing. Soon when no local media dare to do it, it leaves the foreign media the only organized source of information which is not propaganda. Don't forge those internet blogs and others in the virtual world.

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