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Mark Simon and the Hong Kong Protests

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[7]COMMENT: The pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong have garnered considerable media coverage in the U.S. What has received less press treatment  concerns the presence of Mark Simon–an American with an intelligence background–in the unfolding events in Hong Kong.

Having interned with CIA and then worked for the Navy, Mark Simon denies that he is an intelligence officer, a charge leveled by China.

One wonders if his stint in the Navy was with the Office of Naval Intelligence, certainly a possibility, given his prior background interning with CIA.

There is an old expression that goes: “Once ONI, always ONI.”

Does that apply to Simon?

” ‘I’m Not a Spy’ Says Jimmy Lai’s Right-Hand Man Mark Simon” by Ng Kang-Chung; South China Morning Post; 8/11/2014. [8]

“My dad was CIA for 35 years”; “My internship with CIA, four years with naval intelligence…”; “[Next Media] work on human rights cases and have regular fights with many non-democratic regimes in Asia.”

Comments like these in leaked correspondence and job-application letters from Mark Simon offer a rare glimpse into his background and that of his employer; insights some media have used to portray the American as a “man of mystery” with ties to the US Central Intelligence Agency.

Simon, 50, is a senior executive at Next Media Group, which is controlled by Jimmy Lai Chee-ying, a strident and unrelenting critic of the Communist Party and the Hong Kong government. It is no secret that Beijing does not like Lai. Simon, as his closest aide, is also a target for attacks by the Beijing-loyalist camp.

A report in the July 23 edition of pro-communist daily Ta Kung Pao was headlined: “Jimmy Lai’s close aide is ex-spy.”

Simon shrugs off any such insinuation.

“[I am a] man of mystery to anyone who doesn’t read my columns in Next [ Magazine], the WSJ [ Wall Street Journal], and hear me bellow on RTHK,” he says in an emailed reply to the South China Morning Post.

“I have never made any secret that I worked for the US Navy. I am proud of it. But I left the navy in 1991 and [have] never been in pay, association, or employed in any intelligence work for any government since then. Also, on the stolen emails alone, if I am a spy, I am really pretty damn bad at it,” adds Simon.

Dubbed “the backstage man”, Simon found himself taking centre stage after two massive leaks of documents and emails between Simon, Lai and other senior executives of the media group were released to the press in recent weeks.

They reveal discussions of Lai’s financial support for pan-democrats and the planned Occupy Central pro-democracy protests, and Simon’s role in the transfer of money.

Simon, Lai and Next Media did not contest the authenticity of the leaked documents but suspected the information was obtained through computer hacking. On Wednesday, the group formally reported to police that their computer system was targeted by hackers. The case is now under investigation

The donations were not illegal. But some pro-Beijing newspapers suggested the money originated in the United States, citing as evidence Simon’s former intelligence job.

The leaked documents also seemed to suggest Simon helped Lai build relations with right-wing US politicians. In one case, Simon helped set up a meeting between former Republican vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin and a group of pan-democrats during her visit to Hong Kong in 2009. . . .