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Mark Simon and the Hong Kong Protests

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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.

“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. . . .





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