Wed, 16 Jun 2021

Hong Kong, May 15 (ANI): Hong Kong authorities have frozen nearly HKD 500 million of imprisoned media tycoon Jimmy Lai's assets under the draconian national security law.

Issuing a statement on Friday night, the Hong Kong government announced that the secretary for security had ordered Lai's shares in the Next Digital media company to be frozen, along with assets in the local bank accounts of three companies he owned, reported South China Morning Post (SCMP).

Although the statement did not specify the amount, it mentioned that the security minister had the authority to take such action if there are 'reasonable grounds' to suspect that people charged with national security offences held 'offence-related property'.

Based on Next Digital's HKD 490.3 million market capitalisation, Lai's 70 per cent stake is worth HKD 343 million. Meanwhile, Next Digital shares closed 2.11 per cent, or 0.4 HK cents, lower at 19 HK cents.

The Hong Kong Journalists Association criticised the latest action against Lai, with chairman Chris Yeung Kin-hing questioning whether political factors were involved.

"We are deeply concerned that the government's decision [to freeze Lai's assets] comes just around the same time that the police commissioner has repeatedly criticised Apple Daily's news coverage, claiming it to be publishing fake news and inciting hatred," they said.

This comes after Lai was sentenced by a Hong Kong court to one year in prison on Friday over illegal assembly in August 2019.

Lai and some other protestors of Hong Kong riots were convicted earlier by the local court for organising and participating in an unauthorised assembly on August 18, 2019, in Hong Kong.

Subversion was made a criminally punishable offence in Hong Kong last year under the Beijing-drafted national security law.

According to Beijing, the legislation criminalises activities related to terrorism, separatism, subversion of state power and collusion with foreign forces, while local pro-democracy activists and certain Western nations claim that the law undermines Hong Kong's civil liberties and democratic freedoms.

Beijing was perturbed by violent anti-government protests in 2019 and has imposed the national security law to take action against those who protested against the government.

The United Kingdom and the European Union condemned the decision to sentence Lai and multiple pro-democracy figures to prison for their roles in the 2019 mass protests.

According to SCMP, Lai has been a vocal critic of Beijing and leading supporter of the 2019 protests and was arrested in August last year and charged in early December. (ANI)

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