Jimmy Lai: Pro-democracy media tycoon arrested and charged

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Media tycoon Jimmy Lai Chee-ying leaves Eastern Magistrates' court 2016Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
The 71-year-old tycoon is estimated to be worth $660 million

One of Hong Kong's most high-profile entrepreneurs, pro-democracy tycoon Jimmy Lai, has been charged with illegal assembly and intimidation.

The illegal assembly charge relates to a banned anti-government march on 31 August, which Mr Lai is accused of attending.

The intimidation charge relates to a clash with a journalist in 2017.

The newspaper Mr Lai founded, Apple Daily, is frequently critical of Hong Kong and Chinese leadership.

Two other pro-democracy figures, politicians Lee Cheuk-yan and Yeung Sum, were also arrested on Friday.

They have also been charged with one count of illegal assembly in relation to the same protest.

Senior Superintendent Wong Tung-kwong said all three men would be called to the Eastern Magistrate Court on 5 May.

The coronavirus outbreak has paused the city's pro-democracy rallies - but anger against the government is still widespread.

Prior to the outbreak, the city had seen almost weekly protests, with activists having a series of demands - including more democracy and less control from Beijing.

According to an Apple Daily report, 71-year-old Mr Lai was arrested at his home and taken to a Kowloon police station.

Police spoke to him in 2018 about the journalist incident but the investigation did not continue.

Thousands of people turned out for the August march, ignoring the government ban.

Media caption,
The BBC's Helier Cheung on Hong Kong's 2019 protests

The journalist Mr Lai is accused of intimidating is from news outlet Oriental Daily - a major rival of Apple Daily that's seen as being pro-Beijing.

Mr Lai - who was estimated by Forbes in 2009 to be worth $660m (£512m) - is known to be critical of the Hong Kong government.

"The establishment hates my guts," he previously said in an interview with the New York Times. "They think I'm a troublemaker."