Hong Kong Catholic media mogul Jimmy Lai also convicted of fraud

Jailed almost two years ago, the pro-democracy activist was tried for violating the terms of lease. On 1 December, he is set go on trial for threatening national security and sedition. Tomorrow Card Joseph Zen’s trial enters its final phase.

Hong Kong (AsiaNews) – A District Court today convicted Jimmy Lai of fraud for illegally using the offices of the Apple Daily newspaper to run a consulting company.

Last year, the independent newspaper founded by the Catholic media mogul and pro-democracy advocate stopped publishing after coming under investigation for threatening national security.

The 74-year-old Lai was jailed in December 2020 for taking part in an unauthorised protest.

On 1 December, he faces four charges: two counts of conspiracy to commit collusion with foreign countries or external elements, one of collusion with foreign forces, and one count of conspiracy to print, publish, sell, offer for sale, distribute, display and/or reproduce seditious publications.

Violating the draconian national security law imposed by Beijing in the summer of 2020 to crush the pro-democracy movement comes with life imprisonment. The maximum penalty for sedition is two years.

With respect to fraud charges, Lai is accused of failing to comply with the terms of the lease of certain premises at the Tseung Kwan O Industrial Estate, gaining an unlawful advantage from them.

Judge Stanley Chan also convicted Wong Wai-keung in connection with the same case. Wong is the former chief administrative officer of Next Digital, the holding company that controlled Apple Daily.

Sentencing is expected on 24 November, when Lai and Wong will present their requests for reduced sentences. While the mogul remains in jail, Wong has been granted bail.

Meanwhile, the final phase of the trial of Card Joseph Zen Ze-kiun is set to start tomorrow.

Hong Kong’s archbishop emeritus and five well-known pro-democracy advocates have been accused of improperly registering a humanitarian fund of which they were trustees.

Until it closed in October 2021, the 612 Fund helped thousands of pro-democracy activists involved in protests in 2019.