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Trading on Hong Kong Dissident Jimmy Lai’s Media Company Halted

Copies of Next Magazine, owned by Jimmy Lai, are displayed for sale at a newsstand in Hong Kong, Monday, May 17, 2021. The Hong Kong stock exchange on Monday halted the trading of Next Digital shares, days after authorities froze assets belonging to…

The Hong Kong stock exchange suspended trading in shares of Next Digital media company Monday, just days after authorities froze assets of founder and owner Jimmy Lai.

The government froze Lai’s assets last Friday under the city’s national security law, which was imposed by China in 2020 in response to massive and often violent anti-government demonstrations the year before.

The 73-year-old media tycoon and pro-democracy advocate was in court with nine other activists Monday, where they all entered guilty pleas on charges of taking part in an unauthorized assembly in October 2019. He is currently serving a 14-month prison sentence for taking part in separate unauthorized assemblies in 2019.

Officials with Next Digital, which publishes the pro-democracy newspaper Apple Daily, said the company has a few months of operating capital remaining. The newspaper’s sister publication in Taiwan announced last week that it would stop publishing a print edition due to declining advertising revenue and difficult business decisions in Hong Kong.

Lai was first arrested under the new law on suspicion of foreign collusion in August. Hours after his arrest, more than 100 police officers raided Next Digital’s headquarters.

The newspaper live streamed the raid on its website, showing officers roaming the newsroom as they rummaged through reporters’ files, while Lai was led through the newsroom in handcuffs.

The owner of Next Digital media company was initially arrested and charged with fraud, with prosecutors accusing him of violating terms of the company’s lease of its office space. Lai has since been charged under Hong Kong’s new national security law for “colluding with foreign forces,” allegedly for advocating for foreign sanctions.