. China News .

Anger over attack on Hong Kong journalists in China
by Staff Writers
Hong Kong (AFP) March 9, 2013

Hong Kong tycoons plead not guilty in graft case
Hong Kong (AFP) March 8, 2013 - Hong Kong billionaire brothers Thomas and Raymond Kwok, two of Asia's wealthiest men, pleaded not guilty to corruption charges on Friday in the southern Chinese city's biggest ever graft case.

The brothers, who jointly chair developer giant Sun Hung Kai Properties, and Hong Kong's former chief secretary Rafael Hui were arrested and charged in a major swoop by the city's anti-graft watchdog in July.

They were accused by the watchdog of bribing Hui, who held the government's second-highest position and is the most senior official ever arrested for graft.

Their not guilty plea was entered after the prosecution dropped one of the three charges against the younger brother, Raymond, which alleged he conspired to offer an advantage to Hui.

Speaking in Cantonese alongside two other accused, all five told magistrates that they pleaded not guilty. The court then agreed to shift the trial to the high court.

"You are now committed to the Court of First Instance for trial," Magistrate Li Kwok-wai said, before he adjourned the hearing.

A trial date is yet to be fixed and the prosecution has said previously that they intend to call 72 witnesses. They maintain their two charges against Thomas Kwok and eight against Hui.

It is a case that has gripped Hong Kong as the Kwoks own some of its most iconic real estate -- Sun Hung Kai is the city's biggest property developer, based on market capitalisation.

The Kwoks have an estimated family wealth of US$20 billion, according to Forbes magazine.

Analysts said the case reinforced public suspicion that officials were in the pockets of Beijing-backed business elites, who control everything from ports to telecommunications and even supermarkets in Hong Kong.

Hong Kong journalists have condemned an attack on two cameramen outside the Beijing home of the wife of jailed Nobel laureate Liu Xiaobo, slamming it as a violation of press freedom.

The pair were beaten up by a group of unidentified men when they were filming an activist's attempt to visit Liu Xia, who is herself under house arrest, at her apartment building on Friday.

One of the cameramen was punched in the face and pushed to the ground, while the attackers also tried to snatch the camera from the other journalist and hit him in the head, Hong Kong TV news footage and reports said.

"The violence is a serious infringement of press freedom," the Hong Kong Journalists Association said in a statement late Friday.

While attacks on journalists are not new on the mainland, the association said the degree of violence in the latest assault showed "the situation is getting worse".

Hong Kong activist Yang Kuang who was trying to visit Liu Xia was apparently taken away in a police car hours later and his whereabouts remain unknown, the South China Morning Post reported Saturday.

The security guards at Liu Xia's apartment had refused to let Yang enter, before a group of men came out to push away him and yelled abuse at the journalists and set upon the two cameramen, the Post said.

A spokesman for the Hong Kong government said it was "highly concerned" over the incident, and that the right to report on the mainland must be respected.

Liu Xia has been held under house arrest since her husband -- who was sentenced to 11 years in jail in 2009 for "subversion" after co-authoring a bold petition calling for reforms -- won the peace prize in October 2010.

In December, Chinese activists including top dissident Hu Jia broke through a security cordon to visit Liu Xia in a daring affront to the authorities, the first time in more than two years that friends have been able to visit her.


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Chinese activist now in US: State Dept
Washington (AFP) March 7, 2013
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