Freezing Jimmy Lai’s assets reinforces HK’s financial hub status: Carrie Lam
Published: May 18, 2021 06:00 PM
Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam listens to reporters’ questions during a press conference in Hong Kong on Tuesday. Two employees of the US Consulate General in Hong Kong who tested positive for COVID-19 have been hospitalized and one of their daughters is suspected of being infected, Lam said. Photo: VCG

Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam  Photo: VCG


Freezing the assets of Hong Kong media tycoon Jimmy Lai out of national security concerns will hopefully reinforce the city’s status as the Asian financial hub, instead of raising concerns over the city’s protection of personal property, Chief Executive of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) Carrie Lam said on Tuesday. 

On Friday, the Hong Kong Security Bureau froze all of Jimmy Lai Chee-ying's shares in his Next Digital media company and other bank assets under the national security law for Hong Kong, which came to more than HK$300 million ($38.6 million), according to media estimates. 

The move marks the first time that the Hong Kong police froze personal property under the provisions of the national security law for Hong Kong. The action prompted concerns that it will shake Hong Kong's status as a financial center, as investors may feel that their assets are not protected.

Carrie Lam rebutted such claims at a news conference on Tuesday, saying the move against Lai shows how seriously the SAR government performed its duty to safeguard national security, which will instead reinforce the city’s financial hub status, as it further guarantees that no one can use the financial system for political acts that endanger the security of the country and the SAR.

“The problem does not only concern the security of Hong Kong people, but also that of all 1.4 billion Chinese,” Lam said. 

She pointed out that Article 43 of the national security law for Hong Kong empowers the National Security Division of the Police Department to take a number of measures in tackling related crimes, including the freezing of property where there are reasonable grounds to suspects that crimes against national security are involved. Therefore, the action was taken appropriately in accordance with the law.

Secretary for Security John Lee said on Monday that freezing Lai's assets has nothing to do with protection of private property, "because we have legal provisions clearly stipulating in what situations effective measures must be carried out to prevent funds from facilitating or rewarding crimes."

On Monday, Lai pleaded guilty to a separate charge of organizing and taking part in an unauthorized assembly on October 1, 2019. He is currently serving prison terms on multiple convictions. In April, Lai was sentenced to 14 months in prison for taking part in two other unauthorized assemblies in 2019. He also faces other unauthorized assembly cases and charges under the national security law. 

Experts noted that recent actions against Lai show that the legal pursuit and punishment for leading secessionists behind Hong Kong's yearlong social turmoil will be thorough.

Global Times