HK media mogul Jimmy Lai takes rival newspaper to court over ‘inflammatory’ article

01-Dec-2020 Intellasia | South China Morning Post | 6:02 AM Print This Post

Hong Kong media tycoon Jimmy Lai Chee-ying has taken a rival newspaper to court over an “inflammatory” article that claimed he was prepared to flee the city and abscond from criminal proceedings.

The 71-year-old Apple Daily founder has accused Ta Kung Pao of maliciously undermining his reputation by suggesting in a June 25 article he would jump bail in court cases, including those stemming from last year’s civil unrest.

In a writ filed on Thursday, Lai asked the High Court to bar the pro-Beijing paper and its “registered editor”, Jia Xiping, from publishing similar libellous content again, and order them to publish an apology and pay damages.

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The Post understood that Ta Kung Pao’s editor-in-chief was Yu Shijun at the time the disputed article was published. Jia, Yu’s predecessor, stepped down in 2017.

The writ, drafted by Robertsons, noted Ta Kung Pao had run a story, titled “Leaders who create chaos in Hong Kong plotting escape, escape route exposed, charging one million dollars”.

The article allegedly depicted Lai as a “potential suspect” whose “intention to abscond to evade criminal responsibility is well apparent”.

The article was also said to have quoted an “informant” saying that no human traffickers were able to accept Lai’s offer even if he was willing to pay HK$10 million (US$1.3 million) to leave the city via illegal means.

Lai’s counsel, led by Paul Harris SC and Raymond Ho, argued the article was part of a smear campaign “of intense hostility”. The paper, they said, had previously used derogatory terms such as “traitor” or “fatty” against Lai.

They said the article was expressed in a “sensational, prejudicial and inflammatory manner” using false facts and unsubstantiated allegations.

They further argued the article must have been published with the purpose of enhancing the paper’s readership by maliciously accusing Lai of unlawful conduct.

“[Ta Kung Pao] attacked the integrity of and damaged the reputation of [Lai], and accused [him] of unlawful conduct, having calculated that the benefits to them (whatever that may be) through disparaging the integrity and reputation of [Lai],” the writ said.

Lai has been charged in multiple criminal cases, with allegations ranging from intimidating a reporter from a rival newspaper to taking part in unauthorised rallies during last year’s anti-government protests.

He was cleared of the intimidation charge in September, after a magistrate found the Oriental Daily reporter was lying about his encounter with Lai in 2017. The Department of Justice has lodged an appeal against Lai’s acquittal.


Category: Hong Kong

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