Hong Kong freezes shares of media tycoon Lai below security regulation

Hong Kong freezes shares of media tycoon Lai below security regulation

Hong Kong authorities have frozen property belonging to jailed media tycoon Jimmy Lai, together with all shares in his firm, Next Digital – the primary time a listed agency has been focused by nationwide security legal guidelines within the monetary hub.

Also amongst property focused have been the native financial institution accounts of three corporations owned by Lai, Hong Kong’s Secretary for Security John Lee stated in a authorities assertion.

The assertion, issued after the market shut on Friday, stated Lee had issued notices “in writing to freeze all of the shares of Next Digital Limited held by (Jimmy) Lai Chee-ying, and the property within the native financial institution accounts of three corporations owned by him”.

Lai was sentenced to 14 months in jail for participating in unauthorised assemblies throughout pro-democracy protests in 2019.

He faces three alleged expenses below a sweeping new nationwide security regulation imposed by Beijing, together with collusion with a overseas nation.

The transfer in opposition to his property was additionally made below the security regulation, which criminalises acts together with subversion, sedition, collusion with overseas forces and secession with attainable life imprisonment.

The choice by authorities to make use of the regulation’s powers for the primary time to focus on a Hong Kong listed firm might have repercussions for investor sentiment.

There have been indicators of capital flight for the reason that regulation was imposed final June, to overseas nations together with Canada, in accordance with authorities businesses, bankers and attorneys.

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Beijing stated it imposed the regulation on the previous British colony to revive order after months of pro-democracy, anti-China protests in 2019.

However, critics say the regulation has been utilized by China’s Communist leaders to suppress freedoms and pro-democracy campaigners – lots of whom have been arrested and jailed, or have fled into exile.

The chief government officer of Next Digital, Cheung Kim-hung, instructed the Apple Daily that Lai’s frozen property had nothing to do with the financial institution accounts of Next Digital, and that their operations and funds wouldn’t be affected.

The agency’s staff pledged to proceed to “uphold their responsibility and preserve reporting”, in an announcement posted on the Facebook web page of Next Digital’s commerce union.

The chief government officer of Next Digital, Cheung Kim-hung, instructed the Apple Daily that Lai’s frozen property had nothing to do with the financial institution accounts of Next Digital, and that their operations and funds wouldn’t be affected [File: Isaac Lawrence/AFP]

Under Hong Kong inventory trade filings, Lai is Next Digital’s main shareholder and holds 71.26 % of shares that have been value roughly 350 million Hong Kong {dollars} (US$45m) based mostly on Friday’s closing share value.

The worth of the opposite “property” property frozen by the authorities was not instantly clear.

Next Digital runs the Apple Daily, Hong Kong’s most influential pro-democracy newspaper that has lengthy been a thorn within the facet of Hong Kong and Chinese authorities.

Senior Hong Kong officers have not too long ago warned Apple Daily about its protection and have spoken of the attainable introduction of a “pretend information” regulation. Critics have stated that is all a part of a unbroken crackdown on town’s media.

The Taiwan arm of Apple Daily stated on Friday it might cease publishing its print model, blaming declining promoting income and tougher enterprise circumstances in Hong Kong linked to politics.