Jimmy Lai to plead guilty in protest case after assets frozen

Apple Daily newspaper founder Jimmy Lai is also facing a flurry of other cases. - AFP

HONG KONG (Bloomberg): Hong Kong media tycoon Jimmy Lai, veteran activist Albert Ho and eight others will plead guilty in a protest-related trial beginning on Monday (May 17), as authorities in the Asian financial hub continue to prosecute prominent pro-democracy figures.

Lai, Ho and the other activists will plead guilty to organising and attending an unauthorised assembly to mark China’s national day on Oct. 1,2019, Ho said in a brief interview on Sunday. A representative for Lai could not immediately be reached for comment.

"We will be pleading guilty, ” Ho said.

The development was previously reported by Stand News.

Lai, 73, and the founder of the pro-democracy Apple Daily newspaper, is facing a flurry of other cases. He was sentenced in April to 14 months in prison over two separate unauthorized protests in August of 2019, when anti-government protests rocked the former British colony.

He also faces charges under the national security law that China imposed on Hong Kong last year in response to the city’s unrest.

Late on Friday, Hong Kong authorities froze some of the media tycoon’s assets, citing the security law. Secretary for Security John Lee issued notices to freeze all shares of his Next Digital Ltd. media company, as well as the local bank accounts of three companies owned by him, the government said in a statement.

The move marks the first time local authorities have used the security law to freeze the shares of a major investor in a listed company, a step that could spook the financial center. More than 40% of members surveyed by the American Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong said they might leave the city, highlighting the business community’s concerns over the security law and the government’s handling of Covid-19.

Since protests ended amid Covid-19 distancing restrictions, Hong Kong authorities have arrested and prosecuted dozens of the city’s most prominent opposition figures -- from pro-democracy politicians and students to lawyers and social workers.

Other activists facing trial on Monday include former lawmaker Lee Cheuk-yan. Ho, who was given a suspended sentence in one of the earlier protest cases alongside Lai, said he’s appealing his sentence. Lai is also appealing his case, the South China Morning Post has previously reported.

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Hong Kong , Jimmy Lai , assets , seized , court , guilty


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