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Hong Kong Media Magnate Jimmy Lai Found Not Guilty in 2017 Case

Hong Kong businessman and media tycoon Jimmy Lai, center, leaves a court after the court has found him not guilty in a case accusing him of criminal intimidation in Hong Kong, Sept. 3, 2020.

A Hong Kong court Thursday found the media tycoon Jimmy Lai not guilty of criminal intimidation, closing one of several cases pending against the outspoken critic of Beijing.

The acquittal pertains to a 2017 case against Lai, who allegedly used foul language against a reporter from the pro-Beijing newspaper Oriental Daily — a rival media outlet to Lai’s Apple Daily. Police did not press charges against Lai until February of this year.

Prosecutors say Lai’s use of language, which was caught on video, amounted to intimidation against the reporter, who was granted anonymity by the court. Lai pleaded not guilty.

The magistrate, May Chung, said that Lai seemed to have temporarily lost his temper, rather than made a calculated attempt to instill fear in the journalist.

The ruling comes after multiple arrests of Lai, who has several charges pending against him relating to the mass pro-democracy movement last year. The 71-year-old faces a number of accusations of organizing or inciting people to protest illegally.

In a separate incident, Lai was arrested again last month for suspected collusion with foreign forces under the national security laws imposed on Hong Kong by Beijing, in part due to his visit to the United States last year. The Apple Daily newsroom was raided by hundreds of police officers early last month.

The visit to Washington, when the media mogul met with Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, resulted in Beijing's labeling Lai as a “traitor.”