Hong Kong media tycoon Lai unaware of Biden dossier, aide says

WION Web Team
Hong Kong, ChinaUpdated: Nov 01, 2020, 02:01 PM IST
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Media tycoon Jimmy Lai (file photo) convicted for 'unauthorised assembly' in Tiananmen vigil Photograph:(AFP)

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Senior aide Mark Simon on Sunday stepped down from his post at Apple Daily after the admission.

A top aide to Hong Kong pro-democracy media tycoon Jimmy Lai has admitted he helped fund a contentious report alleging links between Joe Biden's son and China. He, however, insisted his boss did not know about it.

Senior aide Mark Simon on Sunday stepped down from his post at Apple Daily after the admission.

The 64-page document by a fictitious author, which was circulated online and seized on by US President Donald Trump's supporters, alleged business connections between Hunter Biden and China.

Investigations in recent days, however, raised questions about its veracity and how it was compiled.

In a series of tweets over the weekend Lai said senior aide Mark Simon, a vocal critic of Biden, had "worked with the project". "Mark used my private company's money to reimburse for the research he requested. It's only US$10,000 so he didn't have to have my approval," Lai wrote.

"I know it is hard for anyone to believe that I didn't know about it and my integrity is damaged," he added.

Lai was one of the first people to be arrested under a new national security law that Beijing imposed on Hong Kong in June following last year's pro-democracy protests.

Lai has long been a thorn in the side of Beijing and has spoken favourably of Trump's willingness to confront China. His Apple Daily newspapers and Next Magazine are unashamedly pro-democracy and he is routinely villified by China's state media. 

According to AFP, Simon Sunday said he acted in his own capacity in paying for some of the research that ended up in the dossier. 

"Apple Daily had nothing to do with the report and certainly Mr. Lai has nothing to do with it," he said.   

"All were completely unaware of me helping out with expenses of research."

Earlier on Friday, NBC published an investigation saying the 64-page dossier had "questionable authorship and anonymous sourcing". The investigation found the listed author, a supposed Swiss security analyst called Martin Aspen, was a fabricated identity and that his picture had been created using software.

According to NBC, blogger and academic Christopher Balding, a former associate professor at Fulbright University Vietnam, said he had contributed to the report and admitted Aspen did not exist. He said the report was was "commissioned by Apple Daily", Lai's staunchly pro-democracy and anti-Beijing newspaper in Hong Kong and Taiwan.

The paper denied that characterisation, as did Simon. 

"I nor anyone at Apple did anything in terms of research or writing, just no role whatsoever.  All arms length," he said. 

"$10k is well within my discretion, but putting Apple people and Jimmy in the firing line was wrong. I was far too casual with using Apple Daily name, I abused the trust I have been given," he added, explaining his decision to resign.

Apple Daily's newsroom was raided by more than 200 police officers and authorities accuse Lai of "colluding with foreign forces" and money laundering.

(with inputs)