Jimmy Lai's 'close ties with US right-wing politicians' revealed in leaked email trove
Media mogul Jimmy Lai Chee-ying has maintained close ties with right-wing politicians in the United States, according to documents leaked to the media.
The documents, mostly email exchanges between Lai's top aide Mark Simon and others, were sent to major news outlets yesterday by the same person who last month leaked information about Lai's donations to Hong Kong politicians.
The documents suggest Lai had regular contacts with US politicians. In one case, Simon acted as a go-between to set up a meeting between former Alaska governor Sarah Palin and a group of pan-democrats during her visit to Hong Kong in September 2009.
In an email dated September 4, 2009, to Meghan Stapleton - Palin's senior adviser - Simon wrote that pan-democrats "need some attention and gain a level of protection by government knowing they can get some international attention".
Palin, one of the most prominent right-wing politicians in the US, lost the election in 2008 as running mate to Republican presidential contender John McCain.
Receiving no reply from Palin, Simon wrote again on the same subject to Randy Scheunemann, who was McCain's foreign affairs adviser. Simon offered advice on how Palin should approach the media to gain positive exposure. "[The] press [in Hong Kong] is going to be very hostile, I am certain, if she does not have a say on who she sees. SCMP is bad news, Tom Mitchell from FT [ Financial Times] wore an Obama button during [the presidential election] campaign," Simon said.
"CNN International are commies, and the Brits are hopeless. WSJ edit page, CNBC, the Asian News Channels, even the Chinese government network CCTV are okay, as they are not out to get her," Simon wrote.
But last night Simon told the Post: "Here is the funny part of trying to tie Mr Lai to the US. He only went to DC two times since 2001 … Jimmy met with some think tank guys, went to dinners, hit a museum, and then was off to his hotels in Canada. He was never there more than two nights." Simon also said the meeting between pan-democrats and Palin never happened.
Email exchanges between Simon and staff of the US consulate in Hong Kong show Lai joined James Cunningham, then consul-general in Hong Kong, for a boat trip on June 20, 2008.
Lai, founder of Apple Daily, also had meetings with Cunningham's successors, Joseph Donovan and Clifford Hart.
Lai also joined a lunch with then US consul-general Stephen Young, Democratic Party founder Martin Lee Chu-ming and Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun on March 14 last year.
Simon's email exchange with former US deputy defence secretary Paul Wolfowitz also shows Lai and the former top US official travelled together to Myanmar twice - in October 2012 and June last year. Documents leaked two weeks ago show Lai paid Wolfowitz US$75,000 for his help with projects in Myanmar.