The Hong Kong government, through its inaction, was “encouraging” the recent violent attack on the printing press of the city’s edition of The Epoch Times, media advocacy group Reporters Without Borders (RSF) said in a statement condemning the incident.
Around 4 a.m. on April 12, four armed men barged into the Hong Kong edition’s printing warehouse. They smashed equipment with sledgehammers and scattered construction debris on equipment before stealing a computer and fleeing in a white van.
The incident lasted for approximately two minutes, but caused extensive damage. The Hong Kong edition was forced to temporarily halt operations to make repairs and upgrade the facility’s security system.
Citing an arson attack targeting the same facility just a year and a half ago, the advocacy group called for authorities to punish the intruders and restore media freedom.
“By leaving previous attacks on journalists unpunished and creating a climate of suspicion against independent media outlets, the Hong Kong authorities are encouraging such violence,” said Cédric Alviani, head of RSF’s East Asia bureau.
He called on Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam to “put an end to her government’s attacks, which are threatening media independence, and restore full freedom of the press, as enshrined in the Basic Law she is supposed to enforce.”
Hong Kong’s press freedom ratings have observed a sharp decline over the past two decades, plummeting to 80th place in 2020 on RSF’s World Press Freedom Index, from 18th in 2002. By comparison, China ranked 177th out of 180.
Over the past year, the Chinese regime has moved to strip Hong Kong of the liberties that distinguish it from mainland China. But some “vestiges of democracy” have remained in the form of a free press—“and The Epoch Times represents that,” former U.S. Army Gen. Jack Keane said on Fox Business on April 13.
“Some of the vestiges of democracy are still there, and the Chinese Communist Party is physically crushing it as best as they can,” he said.
At least five other journalist groups have also called on Hong Kong authorities to bring the perpetrators to justice.
Scott Griffen, deputy director of the Vienna-based International Press Institute, said the “attack must be fully and immediately investigated by the authorities, who must hold those responsible to account.”
“We are outraged by this latest attack on The Epoch Times, which comes at a time when the Chinese government is methodically and brutally stripping away the fundamental rights, including freedom of expression, of the people of Hong Kong,” Griffen said in an emailed statement. “There must be zero tolerance for attacks on journalists and media outlets, and we expect swift action by Hong Kong officials.”
June Guo, the director of Epoch Times Hong Kong, said the paper is aiming to resume printing before April 16, when the court will deliver sentences for key pro-democracy activists.
Rep. Ralph Norman (R-S.C.) said he “will celebrate with The Epoch Times when their printing presses are soon rolling again in Hong Kong.”
“Tyranny thrives when those who expose it cannot be heard,” he told The Epoch Times.
“This was clearly an attempt to silence The Epoch Times, and I condemn this attack in the strongest possible terms.
“Around the world, enemies of free speech must be met with resolve, resilience, and even louder voices.”