Hong Kong’s anti-corruption watchdog is being accused of political persecution after investigators visited the homes of a prominent media publisher and a pro-democracy politician, Ming Pao Daily reported Friday.
Jimmy Lai, founder of Next Media which publishes the outspoken Apple Daily newspaper, said officers from the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) visited his home for four hours on Thursday but declined to give further details.
On the same day, ICAC investigators went to the home of Labor Party leader Lee Cheuk-yan.
Lee said the officers were looking for documents relating to Lai’s alleged donations to his party and a copy of a speech he gave to the Legislative Council in January, according to reports.
Also visited by investigators was the home of Lai lieutenant Mark Simon.
Democratic Party founder Martin Lee said the visits came across to Hong Kong people as “white terror”.
And Civic Party lawmaker Claudia Mo, who was reported to have accepted donations from Lai but denied the allegation, described the incidents as political persecution.
In a statement, the ICAC denied any political motive for its actions.
The officers could have been looking into whether Lai and Lee might have violated anti-bribery laws over the alleged political donation, the report said, citing unnamed sources.
Former ICAC chief investigator Stephen Char said the agency would have to prove that Lee did take money for himself from Lai and whether Lee tried to speak for Apple Daily.
Still, the ICAC could not avoid questions about the timing of the visits at the height of tensions over election reform given that Lai and Lee are key players in the political drama, the report said.
Some people are worried the ICAC is being used by the government to suppress dissent.
Ivan Choi, a senior lecturer in the department of government and public administration of the Chinese University of Hong Kong, said the government could put pressure on its opponents and critics through the ICAC and the Inland Revenue Department.
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