In the early hours of Monday, four men broke into the printing warehouse of the Hong Kong edition of The Epoch Times. The perpetrators smashed printing equipment with sledgehammers and tossed construction debris on it before fleeing the scene in a white van. They threatened the staff onsite not to do anything that would compel them to take action.
The printing plant suffered extensive damage from the assault, which affected multiple computers, the transmitter, and a computer, and forced the Hong Kong edition to suspend printing for the time being.
Guo Jun, the director of the Hong Kong edition of The Epoch Times, said the attack was the latest in a long line of actions aimed at crippling the outlet.
While The Epoch Times Hong Kong will increase security measures, that in itself is not enough to counter the effect of declining press freedom, Guo said.
Guo vowed to resume publishing the newspaper by Friday, when a Hong Kong court will announce the sentencing of several key pro-democracy activists.
Preliminary Police StatementHong Kong police’s organized crime squad has taken over the investigation. In an overnight statement to AFP, the police said they received a report that the attack was related to a dispute over a debt.
“Police received a report saying that the suspects claimed the staff from the above company owed loans and used hammers to destroy five computer screens and one printer,” the statement said.
“The story we can say is a ruse, and most likely planted in order to deflect attention away from the obvious culprit here which is the Chinese Communist Party,” said Stephen Gregory, the publisher of the U.S.-based newspaper, in the press conference.
Guo confirmed that there have been no outstanding debts by the warehouse or the Hong Kong Epoch Times.
The police statement appeared to refer to a note left by the attackers at the scene, Gregory said.
“In order to gain access to the print shop, the first man who blocked the door demanded to see Mr. Chu, he wants to see Mr. Chu right away—there is no Mr. Chu who works in the Hong Kong print shop,” he said. Despite being told so by the woman he confronted, the man quickly let in three other attackers. The four later left a note that the police found asserting the debt claim, Gregory said.
Journalist watchdogs have called for the police to conduct a thorough investigation and hold the attackers accountable.
Police investigations into the previous attacks on The Epoch Times printing press have not brought meaningful results, Guo noted, calling for international support for the outlet to continue its mission.
What happened to the printing plant “allows the world to see what it means to live under the Chinese Communist Party,” Gregory said.
“The world needs to push back,” said Gregory. “They need to stand up for democracy, they need to stand up for human rights, they need to let the Chinese Communist Party know it’s not going to have a free hand taking democracy and human rights away from the people of Hong Kong and people around the world.”