Epoch Times distributing staff have counted at least six instances of vandalism—involving more than 30 newspaper boxes—this month. The boxes were mostly clustered in Manhattan’s Chinatown neighborhood, but also include some in Brooklyn and near the Chinese consulate.
Several newspaper boxes were repeatedly spray-painted with the denigratory phrase “traitors” in Chinese. In other cases, the boxes were knocked over or newspapers were stolen.
The Chinese Epoch Times maintains hundreds of newspaper boxes, where patrons insert coins to purchase copies, across the five boroughs of the city.
On more than one occasion, after Epoch Times staff removed the graffiti, it would return the very next day. One time, more than 20 boxes had the repeated graffiti.
Boxes belonging to the Chinese-language version of the newspaper have previously been damaged, such as the coin slots being jammed with hard objects to prevent readers from accessing the publication. In August 2019, one newspaper box was set on fire.
The vandalism appears to have been carried out at night, according to eyewitnesses. Through visiting local businesses and speaking with eyewitnesses, the paper has obtained some initial information and plans to take legal action soon, according to the Chinese edition’s deputy editor-in-chief, Huang Wanqing.
Senior staff with multiple New York-based Chinese community organizations have criticized such acts as an assault on freedom of the press. The vandalism also likely constitutes a hate crime and a breach of free speech, New York lawyer Li Jinjin said in an interview.
Yang Wei, a China affairs commentator based in Canada, saw photos of the damaged boxes and noted that the graffiti was written in simplified Chinese—the script used in mainland China. In addition, the word choice of the graffiti indicates the perpetrator’s clear motivation to “smear The Epoch Times’ critical reporting about the Chinese regime as harming the interests of the Chinese people,” he wrote in a Sept. 20 commentary.
The Chinese regime “has the least right to talk about traitors,” he wrote, adding that there’s a clear distinction between the Chinese Communist Party and the Chinese people.
Chinese authorities and state media have frequently used the term “traitor” against dissidents and organizations that hold critical views of its governance. Chinese scholar Cai Xia, a retired professor residing in the United States, who was recently expelled from the Party over her criticisms of Chinese leadership; and Miles Yu, a key China policy adviser at the U.S. State Department, have both been attacked by the regime with such labels.
Li Yong, a former journalist with the Taiwan-based United Daily News, noted that the vandalism aligns with the CCP’s underhanded tactics in attacking dissidents and shows the Chinese regime’s fear of The Epoch Times’ uncensored coverage of China issues.
“Please don’t feel discouraged,” he told The Epoch Times in an email. “This is something to cheer about—it’s proof that your newspaper’s … unyielding stance has been so lethal to the CCP that they can’t bear it.”
He had previously received personal threats from Chinese agents while conducting interviews due to the Taiwanese newspaper’s critical stance on the regime. In 1975, the newspaper’s New York office saw its window smashed, and the tire of a company vehicle was deflated, he wrote in a 2005 article.
The New York newspaper boxes aren’t the only ones that have been targeted. In July, the publication’s Canadian Chinese-language edition noted a surge in newspaper theft in several cities in an apparently organized operation. A year earlier, police in Toronto arrested a man suspected of vandalizing 70 Epoch Times newspaper boxes for both the Chinese and English editions.
Linda Lin contributed to this report.