Hong Kong police freeze assets worth US$ 64 million that belong to Jimmy Lai

This is the first time that the assets of a defendant on trial under the National Security Act are frozen. The assets include Jimmy Lai’s 70 per cent share of the Next Digital media company, which owns the Apple Daily. Meanwhile, its Taiwanese edition will stop its print version because pro-China forces affected its advertising revenues.

Hong Kong (AsiaNews) – Hong Kong’s national security police froze nearly HK$ 500 million (US$ 64 million) in assets belonging to media mogul Jimmy Lai.

The South China Morning Post reports that the frozen assets include 70 per cent of Lai’s shares in his Next Digital media company, which owns the anti-establishment Apple Daily newspaper.

In a statement issued late in the afternoon, Hong Kong’s Security Bureau confirmed the action. This is the first time that local authorities have used the security law to seize a defendant’s property.

Lai has been in prison for several months charged with national security offences, including participation in two unauthorised protests in August 2019.

Prosecutors also accuse him of illegally subletting space meant for Next Digital in a building owned by the Hong Kong Science and Technology Parks Corporation, a state-funded body.

Both Hong Kong and mainland authorities appear to be increasingly targeting Lai's publishing empire.

The Commissioner of Police of the Hong Kong Police Force Chris Tang has in fact accused the Apple Daily of spreading “fake news” in order to vilify law enforcement, and has not ruled out taking legal against the paper for violating the national security law.

Meanwhile, the Taiwanese edition of Apple Daily will stop publishing its print edition starting next week.

In an open letter to readers today, the paper explained that the move was dictated by the need to cut losses, blaming “pro-China forces" in Hong Kong for boycotting various advertising resources, making Apple Daily Taiwan's operations "extremely difficult."