Taiwan Says Hong Kong Tycoon Asset Freeze a Warning to Global Investors

May 16, 2021 Updated: May 16, 2021

TAIPEI—On May 15, representatives of Taiwan warned that Hong Kong’s decision to freeze assets belonging to jailed media tycoon Jimmy Lai was a sign to the international community that doing business in the Chinese-controlled city was becoming increasingly risky.

The asset freeze, announced one day earlier on May 14, includes all shares in Lai’s company, Next Digital—the first time a listed firm has been target by Beijing’s national security law in the financial hub.

Shortly before the announcement, the Taiwan arm of Lai’s popular Apple Daily said it would stop publishing its print version, blaming declining advertising revenue and more difficult business conditions in Hong Kong linked to politics.

In a statement sent to Reuters, Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council said the asset seizure highlighted the threat Hong Kong’s national security law posed to the property of the city’s people.

Jimmy Lai
Hong Kong pro-democracy media tycoon Jimmy Lai (C) is led into a police van as he heads to court to be charged under the territory’s controversial new national security law, in Hong Kong, China, on Dec. 12, 2020. (Peter Parks/AFP via Getty Images)

“It is equivalent to announcing to the international community that Hong Kong’s business risks are increasing,” the council said. “We also once again call on relevant parties to stop suppressing Hong Kong democrats, otherwise they will drift away from popular sentiment.”

The former British colony of Hong Kong has been rocked by protests against its Beijing-backed government in recent years, and the Chinese communist regime imposed a tough new national security law on the city last year.

The Chinese regime sees Taiwan as a part of its territory and has threatened war to bring the island into its fold. The self-ruled island is a de facto independent country with its own democratically elected government, military, constitution, and currency. Taiwan’s government has been strongly critical of the suppression of democracy in Hong Kong.

Lai was sentenced to 14 months in prison for taking part in unauthorized assemblies during pro-democracy protests in 2019.

By Ben Blanchard

The Epoch Times contributed to this report.