Four intruders barged into the printing plant of the Hong Kong edition of The Epoch Times in the early hours of April 12, damaging computers and printing equipment in an attack believed to be the latest effort by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to silence the news outlet.
In an attack on the same facility in November 2019, four masked men set fire to two printing presses; the perpetrators are still at large.
Cheryl Ng, a spokeswoman for the Hong Kong edition, said the intrusion was characteristic of the CCP and had the aim of silencing an independent outlet from reporting on topics that are taboo to the communist regime.
Ng, who condemned the attack, said it was a crime against Hong Kong’s freedom of speech.
The Epoch Times, one of the few independent media outlets in Hong Kong, is known for its uncensored coverage of China, including political infighting within the CCP, the regime’s human rights violations against ethnic minorities and religious groups, and Beijing’s propaganda and influence operations abroad.
The Hong Kong edition also has provided extensive independent coverage of the city’s pro-democracy movement, which started in June 2019 but subsided in July 2020 when Beijing imposed a draconian national security law on the China-ruled city. The law has further stripped Hong Kong’s dwindling autonomy, in particular the city’s press freedoms.
In a statement, the Hong Kong edition of The Epoch Times condemned the CCP for creating “white terror” in Hong Kong, while calling on the international community to monitor Hong Kong’s freedom of speech, which is under siege by the communist regime.
About 4:38 a.m. on April 12, a female employee of the printing press returned to the shop, where she spotted a man in his 30s standing nearby, while chatting on his cellphone.
When the employee tried to close a sliding door, the man suddenly walked up and stood in the doorway, preventing it from being shut.
The man then angrily questioned the female employee, asking her to have ‘Mr. Chu’ come out and meet him. When the employee responded that there was no such person, the man refused to walk away.
Suddenly, three other men arrived and pushed their way into the facility. Two of them carried sledgehammers, and one of them carried a plastic bag with a knife in it.
They shouted at another employee: “Go away. Go away. It is none of your business. Go away. Don’t force me to do anything.”
After barging in, the men started hammering on the printing equipment. Among the items damaged were the printing press’s central control panel and several computers. One of the men also tossed construction debris from his bag onto the equipment.
The intrusion, which was captured on video, lasted about two minutes. When the men left, they stole a computer before fleeing in a white van.
The printing plant staff then called the police, who arrived shortly afterward.
The printing site, established in February 2006, has been attacked four previous times. That month, thugs broke into the building and damaged the newly purchased equipment.
In October 2012, thugs failed to smash open a gate in an attempt to break into the print shop. About two months later, seven men toting toolboxes appeared and began trying to break through the gate; they fled after police were called.
The Nov. 19, 2019, arson attack resulted in damages of more than $40,000. That day, four individuals, who were dressed in black in an apparent attempt to disguise themselves as Hong Kong democracy protesters, lit a fire that activated the warehouse’s sprinkler system.
Several U.S. senators, as well as the rights groups Reporters Without Borders and the Committee to Protect Journalists, and the Foreign Correspondents Club in Hong Kong all spoke out against the arson attack.
Ng said that the company’s Hong Kong edition won’t bow to violent threats, and is in the process of repairing the damage. She expressed hope that the Hong Kong police will solve the case and bring the four men to justice.
She urged Hongkongers to continue to support the newspaper.