In Hong Kong Drama, China’s Communist Party Casts Virginian as a Villain

The Washington Post profiles Mark Simon, an American working for Hong Kong media tycoon Jimmy Lai who has recently become a target of the Chinese government for his boss’ support of pro-democracy groups:

Simon, who moved to Hong Kong in 1992 to take a job with a shipping company, surfaced as a focus of attention last month after the financial records of his boss, Lai, mysteriously popped up on the Internet. They revealed that Lai had made donations of nearly $8 million over five years to pro-democracy groups and individuals — and that Simon, as head of his private office, handled the payments.

The donations broke no laws and were tiny compared with those made to pro-China parties by Hong Kong businessmen whose identities have remained secret. Financial statements show that Lai and a few other donors gave $770,000 to Hong Kong’s Democratic Party over a 12-month period that ended in March 2010, while unidentified donors contributed $6.2 million over the same period to the Democrats’ main rival, the Beijing-friendly Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong.

China’s official government representatives in Hong Kong kept quiet, but an extensive network of party-controlled organizations mobilized for attack. The party still operates in Hong Kong as it did under British rule as an underground organization: It is not registered, and its membership is secret. It nonetheless controls newspapers, trade union groups and a host of other bodies loyal to Beijing.

Hong Kong papers run by the party and a media group owned by a pro-China businessman suggested that the money Lai donated had originated in America, citing as evidence Simon’s former Pentagon job and his position in 2005 as head of the Hong Kong branch of Republicans Abroad. This, said Wen Wei Po, a party-run newspaper, showed that Hong Kong’s pro-democracy camp is led by “political agents nurtured and funded by American intelligence organs.”