Hong Kong, May 28 (ANI): Hong Kong's security chief has warned bankers for jailed media tycoon Jimmy Lai that dealing with his frozen bank accounts will make them liable for imprisonment up to seven years.
According to South China Morning Post (SCMP), John Lee Ka-chiu said on Thursday that he was following the Beijing-imposed national security law that banned acts of subversion, secession, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces.
"I am exercising the power because Lai has been charged with two offences of collusion with other countries or external forces to endanger national security," he said.
"It is my duty to specify in my notice to the relevant parties what will be the consequences if they fail to comply with my direction," he added.
Lai, who pleaded guilty to one crime of organising unapproved assembly, was sentenced to 14 months in prison on Friday, along with nine others who were sentenced between 14-36 months by the Hong Kong District Court, reported Dimsum Daily.
Together with other prison terms served concurrently, Lai will serve a total of 20 months in prison and there are still multiple charges pending against him; he may be looking at longer prison terms.
Earlier this month, Hong Kong authorities have frozen nearly HKD 500 million of imprisoned media tycoon Jimmy Lai's assets under the draconian national security law.
Issuing a statement on May 14, the Hong Kong government announced that the secretary for security had ordered Lai's shares in the Next Digital media company to be frozen, along with assets in the local bank accounts of three companies he owned.
The Hong Kong Journalists Association had criticised the latest action against Lai, with chairman Chris Yeung Kin-hing questioning whether political factors were involved.
"We are deeply concerned that the government's decision [to freeze Lai's assets] comes just around the same time that the police commissioner has repeatedly criticised Apple Daily's news coverage, claiming it to be publishing fake news and inciting hatred," they said.
Two days later, the Hong Kong Stock Exchange temporarily suspended trading of shares belonging to jailed media tycoon Lai's Next Digital before the market opening.
Earlier, the media tycoon was convicted of organising and participating in unapproved assembly for illegal demonstrations on August 18 and August 31 pro-democracy protest in 2019 and was imprisoned with nine other people last Monday. They had pleaded guilty to organising an unapproved assembly, involving an illegal demonstration on October 1, 2019.
Subversion was made a criminally punishable offence in Hong Kong last year under the Beijing-drafted national security law.
According to Beijing, the legislation criminalises activities related to terrorism, separatism, subversion of state power and collusion with foreign forces, while local pro-democracy activists and certain Western nations claim that the law undermines Hong Kong's civil liberties and democratic freedoms.
Beijing was perturbed by violent anti-government protests in 2019 and has imposed the National Security Law to take action against those who protested against the government. (ANI)