Beijing says embassy 'never invited' Jimmy Lai to dinner while he was in Myanmar

Beijing denies media mogul was invited to an embassy dinner while in Myanmar

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 26 June, 2014, 4:05am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 26 October, 2016, 2:38pm

Beijing's top foreign ministry representative in Hong Kong has dismissed as "purely fictitious" claims that the Chinese embassy in Myanmar invited Next Media chairman Jimmy Lai Chee-ying to dinner during his trip to the country last year.

In a statement, a spokesman for the Office of the Commissioner of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Hong Kong said: "It has been confirmed that the Chinese embassy in Yangon never invited [Lai] to any banquet last year."

He said the dinner invitation claim, by Lai's top aide Mark Simon, was "purely fictitious". The spokesman could not be reached for further comment yesterday.

Conspiracy theories abound after media revelations last week that Lai had a private meeting with former US deputy defence secretary Paul Wolfowitz on a yacht off Sai Kung for five hours late last month.

The meeting was highly sensitive, as Beijing has warned repeatedly against "interference in Hong Kong affairs" by "outside forces" amid growing tensions over electoral reform.

Lai later said that he and Wolfowitz had known each other for a long time and that he had neither received foreign funding nor had any links with foreign powers. He said he and Wolfowitz had gone swimming.

Simon, commercial director at Next Media Animation, told the Post last week: "Paul and Jimmy have been friends ever since Paul became head of the US-Taiwan Business Council after his stint as head of the World Bank.

"When in Yangon, the Chinese embassy reached out twice to invite Mr Lai to a dinner, so the Chinese are well aware of the friendship," Simon said, referring to a trip the duo made last June.

Simon had not replied to an inquiry by the Post by press time.

Wolfowitz was deputy defence secretary in the George W. Bush administration from 2001 to 2005. He then joined World Bank as president but was forced to resign in 2007 after he was found to have broken bank rules by securing a pay rise and promotion for his girlfriend. In 2008, he became chairman of the US-Taiwan Business Council, a non-profit group which promotes trade ties.