Taiwan Land Commission: Freezing private assets with national security law increases business risks in Hong Kong

Taiwan’s government warned Saturday (May 15) that the first action by Hong Kong authorities to freeze private assets in the name of the National Security Law has increased business risks in the international financial center.

In a statement, Taiwan’s Land Commission said the confiscation of assets highlights the threat posed by the Hong Kong National Security Law to the property of the people of Hong Kong, “which is tantamount to announcing to the international community that the business risk in Hong Kong is increasing.”

The Land Commission once again called on the parties concerned to stop suppressing the pro-democracy faction in Hong Kong, otherwise they will deviate from public opinion.

This warning from Taiwan comes after Hong Kong’s Secretary for Security Lee Ka-chiu on Friday froze 70 percent of media tycoon Lai Chi-ying’s shares in Next Media and the property in local bank accounts of three companies he owns, in accordance with Hong Kong’s national security law.

Lai currently holds 71.26 percent of Next Media’s shares, with a market value of more than HK$300 million.

Hong Kong police charged Lai Chi-ying with “conspiring with a foreign state or foreign power to endanger national security” last December and two counts of “conspiracy to conspire with a foreign state or foreign power to endanger national security” and “conspiracy to make and attempt to obstruct a foreign state or foreign power” last April. “conspiracy to do and attempt to do an act which obstructs the course of justice.”

Lai was sentenced last month by a Hong Kong court to one year in prison for organizing and participating in an unauthorized assembly. His trial in a case involving violations of national security laws will be postponed until June.

Taiwan has always supported the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong and offered protection to those pro-democracy activists who fled the city.

Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council said that it once again calls on all parties concerned to stop suppressing the pro-democracy faction in Hong Kong, or else they will lose mainstream public opinion.

The confiscation of Lai Chi-ying’s assets by Hong Kong authorities marks the first time the Hong Kong government has used national security laws to freeze the assets of a major shareholder of a listed company, said an AFP report. This will cause anxiety among investors in Hong Kong, a business hub.

Lai Chi-ying, 73, has been a thorn in Beijing’s side. His media outlets are harsh critics of Beijing’s policies and offer staunch support for the cause of democracy. His Apple Daily has been a key public opinion outlet for Hong Kong’s pro-democracy faction during the massive protests in 2019.

One of Beijing’s aims in imposing the national security law in Hong Kong last June was to solve the problems of Hong Kong’s pro-democracy faction once and for all and restore stability to the city, as the Communist Party intended. Since the implementation of the law, more than 100 pro-democracy activists have been arrested for “violating the national security law.

A survey of companies released Wednesday by the American Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong found that 42 percent of its 325 member companies said they would consider leaving Hong Kong soon. The reason is their concerns about Hong Kong’s version of the national security law.

Of the companies planning to move out of Hong Kong, 62 percent said the “national security law makes me feel uncomfortable.” Some 36% indicated concern that the national security law would affect the quality of their children’s education in Hong Kong.