Jimmy Lai: Hong Kong’s rebel mogul and pro-democracy voice
April 16, 2021
The billionaire media mogul Jimmy Lai is one of the most prominent supporters of Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement. He has been a persistent thorn in China’s side and is now in prison serving a year’s sentence for his involvement in protests in the territory.
Mr Lai was 12 years old when he fled his village in mainland China, arriving in Hong Kong as a stowaway on a fishing boat. Like a number of the city’s famed tycoons, he went from a menial role, toiling in a Hong Kong sweatshop, to founding a multi-million dollar empire.
But unlike others who rose to the top in Hong Kong, Mr. Lai also became one of the fiercest critics of the Chinese state and a leading figure advocating democracy in the former British territory. As a result, he has faced a string of cases in recent years and was eventually been sentenced to a prison term on a charge of “unauthorised assembly”.
He is still the most prominent person charged under Hong Kong’s controversial new national security law, which can carry a life sentence.
“I’m a born rebel,” he told the BBC in an interview late last year, hours before he was charged. “I have a very rebellious character.”