HK graft cops raid pro-democracy media boss's home

Staff Writer
Columbus CEO

HONG KONG (AP) — Hong Kong anti-corruption police on Thursday searched the home of a pro-democracy media magnate who is an outspoken critic of Beijing.

Wielding search warrants, officers from the Independent Commission Against Corruption paid a morning visit to the homes of Jimmy Lai and Lai's top aide Mark Simon, Simon said.

The timing raised eyebrows because it comes days before a key decision by Beijing on direct elections for the leader of Hong Kong, a special administrative region of China. It also comes a month after a trove of documents was leaked to competing news outlets detailing donations by Lai to local pro-democracy political parties and groups.

Lai told reporters camped outside his home in an upscale neighborhood that "ICAC was here. They've all gone now and there is no further comment."

Lai's Next Media owns popular newspaper Apple Daily, which is frequently critical of Beijing.

Simon said ICAC officers spent three hours going through the computers in his home, but they "took away nothing, they downloaded nothing." He did not know if anything was taken from Lai's home.

On Sunday, China's legislature is expected to unveil a proposal to allow Hong Kong voters, rather than a committee of pro-Beijing elites, to vote for their leader.

But the proposal is widely expected to require candidates to be vetted by a committee loyal to Beijing, which will anger democracy groups calling for genuine democracy and set the stage for a confrontation between the two sides.

Simon said the police searches were "a wonderful diversion two days, three days before what's not going to be very popular is announced."

An ICAC spokeswoman said the agency would not comment on individual cases.

Shares of Next Media have been suspended from trading on the Hong Kong stock exchange, pending an "announcement related to inside information of the company," it said.