“The moral authority America has is a great force, a great leverage against China in this negotiation because that’s one thing that China doesn’t have,” Lai told “Sunday Morning Futures.” “It’s one thing that they’re most vulnerable to. And why can’t you use it? If China sits down to negotiate, that means they need the deal. If they don’t sit down to negotiate, nothing matters.”
Born in China, Lai made his way to Hong Kong as a stowaway aboard a fishing boat and began working to work in a clothing factory at the age of 12. After working his way up to a managerial position, he invested his money in the stock market and earned enough to buy his own factory, which would become Giordano and develop into an international clothing retailer. Later, Lai founded and is the majority shareholder of Next Digital, a media company based in Hong Kong.
The entrepreneur said that if the proposed extradition bill – which would allow people to be sent to China for trial and has caused mass protests in Hong Kong – passes, it could lead to the city’s undoing.
“If this bill goes through, they can [extract] anybody to the jail in China,” Lai said. “And also the undermining of the rule of law of Hong Kong. Without the rule of law, our financial center status will be undermined also, because without the rule of law there’s no mutual trust in the financial market.”
He also said that people in Hong Kong are reacting so strongly because they grew up with Western values (the city was once a British colony and is now part of China) and feel like their freedom is being threatened.
Lai also urged the U.S. to support Hong Kong in its pushback against the extradition bill. He has met with Vice President Mike Pence, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and national security adviser John Bolton to discuss the ongoing situation in the city.
“Please write your senators, your congressmen to say something to us,” he said. “Like [former President John F.] Kennedy went to Berlin in 1963 and said ‘I am a Berliner.’ That gave a lot of support and hope for the Berliners to face up to the Soviet threat. Now we are in the same position.”