U.S.-based nonprofit the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has urged the Hong Kong police to conduct a fast and thorough investigation into the arson attack against the Hong Kong edition of The Epoch Times’ printing press.
The attack took place in the early hours of Nov. 19, when four masked men dressed in black entered the printing warehouse located in the neighborhood of Tsuen Wan. According to surveillance footage, the men, two of whom wielded batons, threatened the workers inside the facility not to move, while one man poured flammable liquid on the factory floor, before another man lit a fire.
The whole incident lasted about two minutes before all four men ran away. The fire set off the sprinkler system, while staff put out the fire with a fire extinguisher.
The local police bureau and the fire department were called and they reached the facility shortly afterward. The Tsuen Wan Police Station have launched an investigation.
The fire and the subsequent sprinklers caused damage to two printing machines, four rolls of printing paper, and several stacks of newspapers.
The attack, however, did not affect the paper’s publication on Nov. 19.
At the time of writing, local police have not arrested any suspects.
“Hong Kong is suffering from an alarming increase of violence against journalists and media operations, threatening the city’s tradition of press freedom,” Steven Butler, Asian program coordinator at the CPJ in New York, said in a statement on Nov. 22.
“Police should take immediate steps to apprehend those responsible for torching the Epoch Times printing plant, and ensure they are held to account,” he added.
The attack is believed to be the latest effort by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to silence The Epoch Times, an independent media outlet that has covered topics deemed sensitive to the regime, such as suppression of freedoms both at home and abroad. The outlet has also reported extensively on the protests in Hong Kong, a pro-democracy movement launched in opposition to the regime’s creeping encroachment into the city’s autonomy.
This is not the first time the printing press has been breached.
In February 2006, thugs broke into the facility and tried to smash the printing presses. Later in December 2012, seven men tried unsuccessfully to enter the shop before they fled after police were called.
The assailants’ choice of black outfits is believed to be an attempt to mislead people into thinking that they were Hong Kong protesters.
Hong Kong protesters have adopted black clothing since the ongoing protests began in June.
Also on Nov. 22, the Foreign Correspondents’ Club (FCC) in Hong Kong condemned the arson attack in a statement, while calling for a thorough and transparent investigation.
“Attacks on the press or their facilities are unacceptable,” the statement read.
It added: “The FCC expresses its growing concern and condemnation of increasing violence and intimidation of the media in Hong Kong.”
It also called for an independent inquiry into police violence and interference against journalists.
Several U.S. Senators have also condemned the attack—Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), John Cornyn (R-Texas), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), and Bob Menendez (D-N.J.).
“Any assault on the freedom of the press is an assault of the liberty that was promised to the people of Hong Kong,” Hawley stated on Nov. 19.
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) on Nov. 22 called for Hong Kong authorities to put an end to violence against the media, following the arson attack.