Next Media’s Lai E-Mails Were Hacked for Donation Disclosures

Cyber attacks on Jimmy Lai, the Hong Kong billionaire who controls Next Media Ltd., led to the disclosures of e-mails with details of his donations to lawmakers, his spokesman said.

Lai faced attacks from computers in China mirroring the “same effort and complexity” that led to Next Media’s websites going down in June, said Mark Simon, spokesman for the Hong Kong-based company.

Lai’s support for opposition lawmakers in Hong Kong was disclosed in e-mails leaked to newspapers last month, leading to a hearing over whether the politicians involved had disclosed the donations as they’re required to do. Wrangling over how the city picks its next leader has led to increasing tension, with China wanting candidates to be vetted while lawmakers and activists argue for a public nomination.

The South China Morning Post today said the e-mails also showed Lai spent HK$3 million to HK$3.5 million ($387,000 to $451,600) helping the pro-democracy activist group Occupy Central With Love and Peace. Occupy Central has threatened mass sit-ins in the city’s financial district should the electoral reforms not meet international standards. Lai is known for his criticism of the Chinese government.

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“Jimmy did everything on his own, he didn’t give money to Occupy Central,” Simon said. Lai spent about $380,000 on advertisements supporting the movement, Simon said.

Occupy Central last month obtained almost 800,000 signatures as part of an unofficial referendum supporting public nomination of candidates for the chief executive election in 2017. China said that Hong Kong law provides for a vetting of candidates, and has insisted that foreigners shouldn’t interfere in the city’s internal politics.

In comments made on Apple Daily’s online talk show last month, Lai said donations to lawmakers came from him, and not the U.S. or from any foreign country.

Lai has donated more than HK$10 million to pro-democracy parties and politicians since last year, local press have reported, citing the leaked e-mails which don’t offer evidence such as bank statements. The Legislative Council is looking into whether an investigation is merited into the lack of disclosures by James To, Claudia Mo, Alan Leong, Lee Cheuk-yan and Leung Kwok-hung.

Chan Kin-man, a co-organizer of Occupy Central, said the campaign didn’t receive money from Lai, though he helped with ads.

“We appreciate this kind of effort,” Chan said. “Local businessmen who earn money from Hong Kong and then want to pay back to the community by supporting democratic movements is something respectable.”

Apple Daily and Next magazine, publications owned by Lai’s Next Media group, are banned in China.

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