Jimmy Lai shows no sign of relenting to China

The Millennial Source
5 min readSep 10, 2020

This appeared in The Millennial Source

On September 3, the Hong Kong media tycoon Jimmy Lai was cleared of criminal intimidation charges dating from 2017, bringing to a close one of several pending cases against him.

Lai, one of the most noteworthy critics of China’s suppression of the city’s pro-democracy movement, allegedly had directed foul language at a reporter from the pro-Beijing newspaper Oriental Daily, a competing media outlet to Lai’s Apple Daily, during a vigil to commemorate the June 4, 1989, Tiananmen Square massacre.

The Hong Kong court ruled in favor of the media baron, stating it had not found sufficient evidence to support allegations that Lai meant to harm a reporter during the 2017 incident. The magistrate, May Chung, added that she believed Lai appeared to be acting out of impulse, anger and frustration and that she didn’t accept that the reporter was frightened by Lai’s words.

In just one of many attempts to silence Lai, prosecutors had alleged that his remarks to the reporter constituted menacing threats of injury with intent to cause alarm.

However, more serious charges have yet to be dealt with.

Lai has been arrested multiple times this year in connection to pro-democracy activities and faces allegations that the country deems a threat to “national security.”

The outcome of these accusations could have resounding implications for the pro-Democratic movement.

Who is Jimmy Lai?

Lai Chee-Ying, known colloquially as Jimmy Lai, fled his village in mainland China when he was 12 years old and arrived in Hong Kong as a stowaway on a fishing boat.

Prior to founding his multimillion-dollar empire, he worked in a Hong Kong sweatshop. Lai later founded Giordano, a clothing retailer, Next Digital, a media company, and, in 1995, the popular newspaper Apple Daily.

The fate of Lai and his publication have stoked widespread fears, with viewers heeding the case as a principal ruling that will determine press freedom following the country’s newly-imposed national security law.