Hong Kong to freeze Jimmy Lai's assets, citing security law

Jimmy Lai held about 71.3 per cent of Next Digital shares as of September. PHOTO: AFP

HONG KONG (BLOOMBERG) - Hong Kong will freeze the assets of media tycoon and pro-democracy activist Jimmy Lai under its controversial national security law, the latest move to crack down on one of the city's prominent opposition figures.

Secretary for Security John Lee issued notices to freeze all the shares of Next Digital Ltd held by Lai and local bank accounts of three companies owned by him, according to a government statement issued late on Friday (May 14).

Lai, 73, resigned as chairman of the media group in December, ahead of a bail hearing.

Since Beijing passed a sweeping legislation last year to strengthen control over Hong Kong, the local government has disqualified lawmakers, delayed an election and jailed dozens of pro-democracy politicians.

Lai was recently sentenced to a total of 14 months in prison for attending unauthorised protests alongside other activists and charged with more national security offences.

The freeze is unrelated to Next Digital's bank accounts and will not affect the operation of the group and media outlet, Apple Daily reported, citing Chief Executive Cheung Kim-hung.

Lai held about 71.3 per cent of Next Digital shares as at September, according to the company's interim report.

Separately, Apple Daily in Taiwan will stop its print edition from next Tuesday due to continued losses.

The newspaper said the deteriorating political situation in Hong Kong had led to a reduction in advertising revenue, as "pro-China forces" have refused to advertise in the publication.

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