HK’s justice department to appeal ruling clearing media tycoon Jimmy Lai of intimidating reporter

18-Sep-2020 Intellasia | South China Morning Post | 9:36 AM Print This Post

Hong Kong’s justice department on Thursday filed an appeal against a magistrate’s decision to clear media mogul Jimmy Lai Chee-ying of intimidating a reporter from a rival newspaper during an encounter in 2017.

The appeal was lodged on the last day of the two-week period allowed after a court decision.

In a brief statement, the Department of Justice said it had lodged an appeal by way of case stated, under the Magistrates Ordinance. Such appeals are instituted where significant points of law are involved.

Get the latest insights and analysis from our Global Impact newsletter on the big stories originating in China.

Apple Daily founder Jimmy Lai arrives at West Kowloon Court during his trial last month. (Photo: Dickson Lee-SCMP)

Apple Daily founder Jimmy Lai arrives at West Kowloon Court during his trial last month. (Photo: Dickson Lee/SCMP)

“It is not appropriate to make further comment as the legal proceedings are under way,” the statement said.

Lai, 72, founder of Apple Daily newspaper, was accused of verbally threatening an Oriental Daily News reporter and saying he would get someone to “mess with him” after the journalist took pictures and videos of the tycoon during the annual June 4 vigil commemorating the Tiananmen Square crackdown at Victoria Park in Causeway Bay.

The reporter, who was granted anonymity by the court and only referred to as X, testified he had suffered from adjustment disorder a condition stemming from stressful events and a depressed mood since the incident.

Prosecutors alleged Lai’s remarks constituted threats of injury with intent to cause alarm.

Defence lawyers countered by questioning the ethics of Oriental Daily a tabloid-style paper, like Apple Daily describing the incident as an impulsive “scolding” following years of pressure that the newspaper and its employees had placed on Lai.

In acquitting Lai, Chung accepted the defence’s argument that the mogul had an “instinctive outburst” when confronting the reporter at the vigil. Chung said the reporter, rather than looking worried, seemed to laugh off Lai’s remarks in footage of the incident, suggesting he was not at all frightened by the tycoon.

The magistrate rejected the reporter’s testimony that he had only feigned laughter in an attempt to calm Lai down, accusing the journalist of being dishonest and taking him to task for what she characterised as an evasive attitude in answering questions about the exchange.

The media tycoon, known for his critical stance towards Beijing, was among 10 people arrested last month in a high-profile police operation under the sweeping new national security law. Lai and five of the others were accused of conspiracy to collude with foreign forces by allegedly using a crowdfunding website to call for sanctions on Hong Kong.

The other four were accused of commercial fraud.

All were released on police bail pending investigation.

The high-profile tycoon was also among the activists and opposition figures charged over an unauthorised assembly in Victoria Park after the June 4 vigil this summer was banned by police because of Covid-19 measures limiting the size of public gatherings. The cases would be heard in October.

A spokesman for Lai could not be reached for comment. Apple Daily and parent company Next Digital both said they had no comment.



Category: Hong Kong

Print This Post

Comments are closed.