Statement on the Freeze of Jailed Apple Daily Founder Jimmy Lai’s Assets and the Blow to Hong Kong’s Status as an International Financial Center
The Hong Kong government’s May 14 freeze of US$ 64 million in media company shares and other assets belonging to jailed Apple Daily founder Jimmy Lai represents an extraordinary escalation in the use of the mainland-imposed national security law to crush Hong Kong’s democracy movement and free press.
The rule of law is an essential ingredient of Hong Kong’s status as an international financial center. On Tuesday, Chief Executive Carrie Lam absurdly defended the asset seizure by claiming it “reinforces” Hong Kong’s status as an international financial center. Nothing could be further from the truth.
The seizure of Lai’s assets by administrative fiat, without due process, will further alarm local and foreign businesses already concerned by the imposition of a national security law so broad as to allow virtually anything to be criminalized that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) wishes. The Hong Kong government order, seizing private property without demonstrating any connection to criminal activity, is a dangerous sign of things to come. The American Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong has already reported that more than 40% of its members are considering leaving the city, with the imposition of the national security law by Beijing the most-cited concern.
With this development, Hong Kong has taken a step further toward losing its unique position in China as a center for international business and finance. The rule of law, an independent judiciary, the right to private property, and the free flow of information are essential to a prosperous business environment and cannot be replicated on the mainland. They are under attack now in Hong Kong.