Jimmy Lai asset freeze strengthens HK’s status: CE

Chief Executive Carrie Lam on Tuesday dismissed what she called “attacks from western media” on Hong Kong’s status as an international financial centre, saying the move to freeze the assets of jailed media tycoon Jimmy Lai strengthens – rather than undermines – the city’s position.

Last Friday, authorities used provisions under the Beijing-imposed national security law to freeze Lai’s assets, alleging that the property was “reasonably suspected to be related to offences endangering national security”.

Speaking ahead of a meeting of her Executive Council, Lam said the asset freeze showed how serious the SAR is in enforcing the law and protecting the security of not only Hong Kong residents but the country’s entire population of 1.4 billion people.

Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council was quoted as saying the asset freeze was “a warning to global investors” about the risks of doing business in Hong Kong.

Lam said some “western media” have used the case to “attack” the city’s position as a financial hub.

“This will not undermine Hong Kong’s status… but protect our position, because no one will be able to make use of our financial systems to threaten national security and that of the SAR’s,” Lam said.

Lai faces three national security-related charges. He is already serving a 14-month sentence for taking part in unauthorised assemblies in August 2019.

Lam stressed that officials will work in accordance with the law on matters of national security, to ensure those who violate the law are punished.

But she wouldn’t be drawn on whether commemorating the victims of the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre next month will amount to a national security breach, accusing the press of trying to force her to say what will be illegal.

Lam said there are laws on public order to deal with gatherings, and ultimately it’s up to the courts to decide the legality of certain acts or slogans, such as “end one party rule”.

Reports that the police would arrest whoever enters Victoria Park for the commemoration on June 4 are “speculative”, she said, as she refused to offer any further comment.