Hong Kong media mogul Jimmy Lai was acquitted of intimidating a reporter from Oriental Daily three years ago, as the magistrate cited the incredibility of the reporter’s testimony.
The founder of Apple Daily has denied one count of intimidating a reporter from Oriental Daily, a rival tabloid to his pro-democracy newspaper Apple Daily, during the annual candlelight vigil at Victoria Park on June 4, 2017.
X, the concerned reporter who was granted anonymity by the court, said on the first day of trial that he was threatened by Lai when Lai scolded him with foul language. Lai warned X that he would get someone to “give you a hard time”, after the reporter took intrusive photos of Lai.
X admitted earlier in court that himself and other members of the newspaper have been following Lai around the clock since 2014.
West Kowloon Magistrate Court delivered its ruling on the case on Thursday afternoon.
Several audience members applauded the court’s decision, who were quickly stopped by the security guard.
Magistrate May Chung said the prosecution should prove that Lai’s action would cause bodily harm to the reporter, and that he had the intention to threaten X.
Chung said X was not honest or credible, as he tried to fend off simple questions in court.
The reporter was diagnosed with adjustment disorder, said the prosecution in their opening statement last week. But Chung questioned whether it was caused by Lai’s remarks.
Lai said earlier that his words meant taking legal actions or reporting to the police, so as to stop the harassment from X. Chung accepted his explanation, agreeing that “giving a hard time” does not necessarily refer to threatening to cause bodily harm.
Another major consideration was whether Lai’s remarks to X were made from anger after being provoked, Chung added.
What Lai said was not planned, especially given video clips of Lai scolding X for several times even after he turned around, showing that he was enraged and throwing a tantrum, Chung said.
Separately, the 72-year-old is still awaiting trial on alleged incitement charges in connection with this year’s June 4 vigil, alongside other charges over last year’s pro-democracy protests.
It was understood that prosecutors of the Department of Justice suggested not to press the intimidation charge on Lai, but Secretary for Justice Teresa Cheng insisted to proceed.
About an hour before the ruling, several pro-Beijing protesters arrived outside the court building and chanted slogans like “Jail Jimmy Lai Now.” All of them took off after Lai left.
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