Four masked intruders dressed in black set fire to the printing press of the Hong Kong edition of The Epoch Times in the early hours of Nov. 19, marking the fourth attack on the facility since its opening more than a decade ago. The attack is believed to be the latest instance of efforts by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to silence The Epoch Times.
A spokesperson for the edition strongly condemned the incident, saying it had the hallmarks of tactics employed by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), aimed at intimidating the outlet from reporting on topics deemed sensitive the regime.
The newspaper is one of the few independent outlets in Hong Kong, and is known for covering internal factional politics within the Party, as well as the regime’s suppression of freedoms both at home and abroad. It has also reported truthfully on the ongoing protests in Hong Kong.
The manager of the printing press said that the incident took place around 3:40 a.m at the facility located in the Mong Kok area, as the staff there were about to send off newly printed newspapers to the stands.
Moments after staff at the press opened the factory door, however, four masked men walked into the facility and pointed batons towards the workers, shouting: “all of you don’t move!”
Surveillance footage from the printing shop shows two of the men dressed in all black carrying batons, while one of them holds newspapers, and another carries two containers containing a flammable liquid, which he poured onto the factory machines and newspapers.
The other black-clad man then ignited fires with a lighter. The four men immediately ran away after the fires started. The whole incident lasted about two minutes.
The fire caused the sprinkler system to turn on, and a staff member used a fire extinguisher to put out the fire. The staff then called the police and fire department, who arrived shortly afterward. The Tsuen Wan police bureau has launched an investigation.
Two print machines, four rolls of printing papers, and several stacks of newspapers in the factory suffered damage from the fire. Some papers were also damaged by the water. The factory is still assessing the value of the loss from the fire.
Press Freedom Attacked
Cheryl Ng, the spokesperson for the Hong Kong bureau, condemned the attack, calling it “a crime against press freedom in Hong Kong.” She said that there’s reason to believe that the CCP is behind this vandalism.
“The fact that two of the thugs dressed in black outfits which looks like the protesters is also view[ed] by us as CCP tactics trying to use people against people,” she added.
Ng said the outlet has been targeted because of its truthful reporting on China-related issues, including the ongoing protests in Hong Kong, which has developed into a mass movement against the perceived CCP encroachment of the city’s autonomy.
Guo Jun, the Hong Kong bureau director, said there were several issues suggesting that the CCP was trying to throw dirty water on the protesters. Protesters said that a lot of violence was a result of the CCP colluding with local triads, she added. The police had in one press briefing admitted they had officers disguised as protesters.
Alan Leong, a former member of the city’s Legislative Council and the chairman of the Hong Kong Civic Party, called on the “evil thugs or the people behind them” to immediately stop what they were doing, or risk “becoming the public enemy of Hong Kong.”
“Hong Kong is not such a barbaric place, it’s a place where people convince others with reason,” he told the Hong Kong edition of The Epoch Times.
The Epoch Times has given honest, thorough coverage of the protests in Hong Kong, giving the people of Hong Kong, and the people of mainland China who visit the city, a chance to know what is actually happening.
For instance, after the Hong Kong police laid siege to the Chinese University of Hong Kong campus, six Hong Kong newspapers on Nov. 12 ran front-page ads echoing Beijing’s rhetoric attacking the protesters. Only The Epoch Times and Apple Daily covered this escalation of police tactics on their front pages.
The reporting of the situation in Hong Kong is just the latest instance of The Epoch Times’ longstanding critical coverage of the CCP, which has earned the CCP’s enmity.
Earlier this year, the newspaper was abruptly pulled from shelves of 7-Eleven stores throughout the city, despite months left in the distribution contract. At the time, the East Asia bureau director of Reporters Without Borders, Cédric Alviani, said he couldn’t “see any reason but the pressure from the Chinese authorities for this withdrawal.”
This arson is the fourth attack on Hong Kong Epoch Times print shop. In February 2006, thugs broke into the print shop and attempted to smash the presses. In October 2012 the door of the print shop was damaged. In December 2012, seven men carrying multiple toolboxes appeared and began attempting to break through the gate. They fled after police were called.
Police investigations into these incidents did not yield any arrests.