Beijing Gets Ugly in Hong Kong

Agents Raid a Prominent Supporter of Local Democracy

The people of Hong Kong want China to honor the democratic promises it made when the city became a special administrative region in 1997, and this fight for freedom deserves more world attention—especially as Beijing‘s counterattack is getting ugly.

Agents from Hong Kong’s Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) searched the homes of media tycoon Jimmy Lai, his employee Mark Simon and legislator Lee Cheuk-yan on Thursday. The search warrants covered records of Mr. Lai’s donations to Mr. Lee and other pro-democracy politicians. The raid is especially ominous because it suggests that Jimmy-LaiBeijing is compromising the independence of Hong Kong law enforcement.

“Lai’s computers had already been hacked and the details of his gifts splashed across the city’s pro-Beijing media.”

Donations to politicians aren’t regulated in Hong Kong, and Mr. Lai’s computers had already been hacked and the details of his gifts splashed across the city’s pro-Beijing media. Several pro-Beijing figures have publicly complained to the ICAC that the donations should be investigated. But the grounds for following these up are hard to imagine, and the timing is suspicious.

Hong Kong media tycoon Jimmy Lai in 2011. Agence France-Presse/Getty Images

The leaked donation records show that Mr. Lai is the main source of funding for the pro-democracy camp. His publications are also critical of Beijing and drum up support for protests. He and Catholic Cardinal Joseph Zen support the Occupy Central movement, which is pressuring Beijing to allow pro-democracy candidates to run for Chief Executive in 2017. So no surprise that he is government enemy No. 1.

It’s likely that the Occupy Central movement is the real reason for the raids. If the records also show Mr. Lai donated to the organizers and they later carry through their plans for a Gandhian civil disobedience protest in the business district, he could be arrested for conspiracy. He could also face civil lawsuits from businesses that suffer losses.

Mafia groups are also being used to apply pressure. Founder Tony Tsoi shut down the popular pro-democracy website House News in July after receiving threats. In July 2013 a car rammed the gates of Mr. Lai’s house and a knife and axe were left with a threatening note. In 2008 the police uncovered a plot to kill him and pro-democracy legislator Martin Lee…(read more)


9 Comments on “Beijing Gets Ugly in Hong Kong”

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