Sunday, March 7, 2021

Hong Kong media mogul arrested for fraud

His arrest and denial of bail are raising fears of a renewed Beijing crackdown on Hong Kong activists.

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Hong Kong media tycoon and pro-democracy supporter Jimmy Lai has been charged with fraud over the alleged illegal use of his company’s premises.

On Thursday, he was denied bail and detained until a court hearing in April next year, the BBC reports.

This comes a day after three prominent pro-democracy activists were jailed.

The cases are raising fears of a renewed crackdown on Hong Kong’s activists and media figures, instigated by a controversial new security law.

China has said the new law will return stability to the territory after a year of unrest, but critics say it is silencing dissent.

Lai is estimated to be worth more than US$1 billion and is one of the city’s most prominent supporters of the pro-democracy movement.

He made his fortune in the clothing industry and then moved into media when he founded Next Digital.

Hong Kong media outlets are growing more fearful of China’s strengthening grip, and Lai is a persistent thorn in Beijing’s side through his publications which openly criticise the Chinese leadership.

To many Hong Kong residents he is regarded as a hero but on the mainland he is viewed as a traitor who threatens Chinese national security.

Interviewed by the BBC before the latest arrest, he said he would not give in to intimidation.

“If they can induce fear in you, that’s the cheapest way to control you and the most effective way, and they know it,” he said. “The only way to defeat their intimidation is to face up to fear and don’t let it frighten you.”

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