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Hong Kong media tycoon hits back against fake obituary

A Hong Kong media tycoon and founder of the liberal Apple Daily newspaper, Jimmy Lai, released a barbed video response to a fake obituary that was published by a rival newspaper.

HONG KONG: A Hong Kong media tycoon and founder of the liberal Apple Daily newspaper, Jimmy Lai, released a barbed video response to a fake obituary that was published by a rival newspaper.

The obituary of Lai, an outspoken critic of Beijing, ran on a full page of the rival Oriental Daily newspaper Thursday (Aug 14) in oversized Chinese characters. It changed the tycoon's name, replacing one character with another that sounds identical, but the biographical details were otherwise identical to Lai's.

It stated that Lai, 65, had died on August 7 of AIDS and cancer, adding that there would be no funeral because his family members were also suffering from illnesses. It also offered condolences to the employees of "Two Media" -- Apple Daily's parent company uses Chinese characters whose literal translation is "One Media". "They want me to die? Is it really that easy?" Lai said in response to the obit in a self-made mobile phone video. "Sorry to disappoint you."

It remains unclear who took out the full page ad for the fake obituary.

Oriental Daily declined to comment when contacted by AFP, and did not respond to further queries. Lai's office did not immediately respond to queries.

Lai and his Apple Daily newspaper, known for its critical stance on Beijing and support for the city's pro-democracy movement, is no stranger to attacks. Apple Daily website suffered a blackout for several hours in June, in what it described as a large-scale attack launched by sophisticated hackers.

An executive of Apple Daily alleged in a Wall Street Journal interview in June that HSBC and Standard Chartered had pulled advertising from the paper in late 2013 after a request from Beijing. Neither bank has confirmed the report.

Concerns over media freedom have also grown this year following several attacks on journalists. The former editor of a respected liberal newspaper, Kevin Lau, was savagely stabbed in broad daylight in February.

Political discontent in Hong Kong is at its highest level in years as fears mount that the freedoms enjoyed in the southern Chinese city are being eroded. Beijing has insisted that it will vet candidates before a vote in 2017 for the city's next leader, raising concerns that they will only allow pro-Beijing candidates to run.

Anger in the city has also grown following a white paper published by China in June that reaffirms its control over Hong Kong. The city was handed back to China by Britain on Jul 1, 1997 under a "one country, two systems" agreement, which allows residents civil liberties not seen on the mainland, including free speech and the right to protest.

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