Trail found linking $10m to group seeking HK sanctions

Top News | Sophie Hui 12 Aug 2020

A group advocating for foreign countries to sanction Hong Kong received around HK$10 million in funding, police found in initial investigations connected to media tycoon Jimmy Lai Chee-ying's arrest.

The 72-year-old Next Digital founder was among 10 people arrested on Monday for breaching the national security law and conspiracy to defraud.

Also arrested were his two sons, Timothy and Ian, and four Next Digital group senior executives - executive director Royston Chow Tat-kuen, chief executive Cheung Kim-hung, administrative director Wong Wai-keung and animation manager Ng Tat-kwong.

Others were activists Agnes Chow Ting, Andy Li Yu-hin and former Scholarism member Wilson Li Chung-chak.

Some of them were released on bail last night after 36 hours.

Ian Lai walked out of Tseung Kwan O police station at 7pm, while Royston Chow was granted HK$200,000 bail after being detained at Western police station on condition he surrendered his travel documents.

Agnes Chow was questioned by officers while being recorded on video at Tai Po police station on Monday night. She was accompanied by her lawyer. She underwent a second recorded session yesterday afternoon.

Her mobile phone, computer and promotion materials were seized from her home in Tai Po on Monday night.

During her arrest on Monday, Chow was seen walking with her hands at her back and covered by a white cloth as if to hide she was being handcuffed. Officers said she was not handcuffed and that she was only holding her clothes behind her back.

Senior superintendent Steve Li Kwai-wah of the new national security department said the arrestees were held for suspicion of collusion with a foreign country or external elements to endanger national security and conspiracy to defraud.

Six of them, he added, are involved in a group that encouraged foreign countries or international organizations to sanction Hong Kong, with financial support provided to the group through an overseas bank account.

Police did not mention the sum involved but it is understood to be around HK$10 million.

Sources said the money was transferred to a number of overseas bank accounts and then sent back to Hong Kong.

Police did not reveal the name of the group, but reports claim it is called "Fight for Freedom, Stand with Hong Kong."

The group wrote on online forum Lihkg and its Telegram channel yesterday that its helpers have been arrested. They previously took part in inviting overseas lawmakers to monitor November's district council elections.

Andy Li and Wilson Li were seen at a press conference on the polls.

The group, which previously claimed its members were overseas, said the arrests would not make them back down, adding their funding has been placed in overseas banks for a long time. It also questioned whether the national security law is retrospective.

A spokesman for Britain's ITV News said: "We can confirm that Wilson Li works for ITV News in a freelance capacity. We are concerned to hear of his arrest and are urgently seeking clarification of the circumstances."

Earlier, Jimmy Lai was driven by police from Mong Kok police station to a yacht club in Sai Kung at 10.55am.

About half an hour later, Lai was brought handcuffed onto a yacht with his lawyer and escorted by five officers.

After conducting a 35-minute search at 12.05pm, Lai was then taken back to the station where he spent the night in a cell.

Asked about his stay in a cell, Lai said: "It's all right. I can withstand it."

He was later taken to Kowloon West Regional Headquarters at 3.20pm and returned to Mong Kok station at about 5pm.

Besides Mark Simon - Lai's right hand man who is out of town - two other people have been added to the wanted list - US-based Samuel Chu, 42, of the Hong Kong Democracy Council and a 26-year-old Lau Cho-dik, spokesman for "Fight for Freedom, Stand with Hong Kong."

Chu was wanted earlier on suspicion of secession or colluding with foreign forces, along with five others including activist Nathan Law.

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