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US Condemns Conviction of Hong Kong Media Mogul Lai as Fraud

Washington says once-vibrant media outlets on the Chinese mainland have “virtually disappeared” amid a sweeping crackdown on dissent.

The United States criticized the fraud conviction of Hong Kong media tycoon Jimmy Lai, warning that human rights protections in the Chinese territory are deteriorating and that its once-vibrant press “has practically missing”.

Lai’s conviction on Tuesday is the latest in a series of cases against the former owner of the now-shuttered pro-democracy newspaper Apple Daily.

State Department spokesman Ned Price said Wednesday that Washington condemned Lai’s conviction on “spurious fraud charges,” saying such efforts to stifle press freedom undermine China’s international obligations to uphold the high degree of Hong Kong’s autonomy and damage the territory’s credibility as a business hub.

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“We remain deeply concerned about the deterioration in the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms and the systematic dismantling of Hong Kong’s autonomy under the National Security Law” imposed by the People’s Republic of China (PRC), Price said in a statement. .

“We urge the PRC authorities to restore respect for press freedom in Hong Kong,” Price said.

Lai and two former Apple Daily executives, Wong Wai-keung and Chow Tat-kuen, were charged with breaching the terms of a lease they signed with a government company for Apple Daily office space.

Lai, 74, was already behind bars for his role in the huge pro-democracy protests that swept through Hong Kong three years ago. He faces an upcoming trial on national security charges and up to life in prison.

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