Poison and big business: Jimmy Lai's private life thrust into the spotlight in leaked files

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 23 July, 2014, 9:15am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 23 July, 2014, 9:28am

Aspects of both the business and the private lives of Jimmy Lai Chee-ying are outlined in files leaked to the media. They include a suspicious food poisoning incident and big businesses pulling ads from his newspaper, allegedly under political pressure.

The Apple Daily boss declined to confirm whether all the files were true records and said he would not report the leak to the police. "There's nothing I can do to stop this kind of cyberattack," Lai told an online talk show. "My newspaper's website is under attack too."

He described himself as "just a staunch supporter of the pan-democrats," adding: "It doesn't matter even if my family letters are disclosed."

Many of the 900 records disclosed bore the name of his assistant, Mark Simon.

One showed that Simon had talked to laboratories about how to test for toxins in Lai's food after he suffered food poisoning, thinking "there [was] a larger story behind" the incident.

But Simon decided not to pursue the test as it could trigger an unwanted police notification.

READ: Jimmy Lai paid Paul Wolfowitz US$75,000 for help in Myanmar

Another was a letter from Simon to Philip Chen Nan-lok, then chief executive officer of Cathay Pacific Airways, in 2005 seeking a meeting after the airline pulled advertising from Lai's Next Media due to "pressures".

A Cathay spokesman last night would not say whether there had been any such pressure, but said the company aligned its advertising with the company's overall sales and marketing strategy "to achieve the best possible results".

Another record was a letter from Simon to Canning Fok Kin-ning, group managing director of Hutchison Whampoa in the same year, making a similar request about advertising.

Lai does not seem to have always enjoyed happy relations with his assistant. In a resignation letter in 2007, Simon - who still works for Lai - said he wanted to leave because the boss was "randomly changing ground rules" and had "doubts" about him.

Leaked audio files featured a person sounding like Lai talking about democracy and social movements with another male. A transcript of the conversation identifies the man as Shih Ming-teh, a leader of protests in Taiwan which tried to oust former president Chen Shui-bian in 2006.

Another file reveals details of the life of former chief executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen and his wife Selina Tsang Pou Siu-mei. A document, The Soul of Donald Tsang, by an unnamed author said Mrs Tsang, a devout Catholic, had been unable to attend Hong Kong bishop Joseph Zen Ze-kiun's elevation to cardinal because "Beijing would not allow it". The former chief executive's office refused to confirm or deny this, saying it was not involved in Mrs Tsang's private activities.

Additional reporting by Ada Lee, Samuel Chan and Jeffie Lam