“The Chinese Communist Party continues to demonstrate they will not honor their agreement on the freedom of the people of Hong Kong,” he said in a statement to The Epoch Times. “The United States should send a clear message that continuing to oppress the people of Hong Kong and eroding their freedoms, particularly the freedom of the press will not be tolerated.”
Around 4 a.m. on April 12, four masked men wielding sledgehammers broke into the printing shop. They smashed printing press equipment and threw construction debris, damaging multiple computers and the printing press’s central control panel. The intrusion, which lasted about two minutes, forced the Hong Kong Epoch Times to temporarily stop printing just days before the sentencing of prominent local pro-democracy activists will be delivered.
It was the second attack the warehouse has suffered in 18 months. During that period, the Chinese regime has significantly tightened its grip on the city. Beijing’s rubber-stamp legislature approved a national security law that prohibits broadly defined crimes such as secession, subversion, terrorism, and collusion with foreign forces, and most recently, a proposal to only allow those it considers patriots to rule Hong Kong.
Press freedom in the city has also been sliding downwards since the former British colony reverted back to Chinese rule in 1997. It now ranks in 80th place on the Reporters Without Borders’ World Press Freedom Index, down from 18th in 2002.
“This attack on The Epoch Times is yet another deplorable example of increasing threats to media freedom and freedom of expression in Hong Kong, and should be condemned unequivocally,” said Benedict Rogers, co-founder and chief executive of Hong Kong Watch.
“I have no doubt one of the main—if not the biggest—’crimes’ the CCP holds freedom-loving Hong Kongers responsible for is that of having shown the entire world the true face of this cruel regime,” said Laura Harth of Safeguard Defenders. She added that “Hong Kong’s free press opened a window of priceless value into the true nature of the CCP and its contempt for universal values.”
“Many of us asked ourselves how long these courageous voices and press staff would be allowed to continue, and unfortunately the answer is becoming clear all too rapidly,” she said.
She noted that the government has moved to prosecute Jimmy Lai, business tycoon and publisher of local newspaper Apple Daily. Journalist Yvonne Tong from the public broadcaster RTHK, who previously challenged a World Health Organization official over Taiwan, has resigned reportedly under pressure and erased all tweets from her personal Twitter account.
Compounding these together with the “egregious attack on Epoch Times’ printing press yesterday, the regime’s intention is all too clear: impose the same wall of censorship and control reigning the mainland, impeding the world their right to know and possibility to act upon that evidence,” said Harth.
Officials in the United States and elsewhere have also lent their support following the vandalism.
“The recent attack on the Hong Kong Epoch Times Printing Press is a direct attack against the freedoms we hold dear in America and deserve universal condemnation,” said Rep. Byron Donalds (R-Fla.). “The world has seen first-hand the deadly impact of the CCP’s lack of transparency, and we must have more journalist organizations reporting on the atrocities of this regime.”
Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) said The Epoch Times “stands out as a valuable asset in the fight for truth and fair reporting.”
“The attack on its Hong Kong printing press is an age old battle between good versus evil as dishonest, power-lusting people attack free speech across the world,” he told The Epoch Times. “Hopefully, there will be courageous lovers of truth who will make their voices heard in condemning the barbarity.”
Markus Wiechel, a Swedish Parliament member, called the intrusion “terrible news,” adding that the outlet “fulfills an extremely important function as one of the very few independent media in Hong Kong” to bring uncensored views.
“Not least in these times when we see recurring violations of fundamental human rights and freedoms, which of course also include the right to freedom of the press and expression, those who stand up for these inviolable values also need to act,” he said.
Lucio Malan, a member of the Italian Parliament, said the Monday attack is “yet another act of brutality against Hong Kong’s democracy and freedom by the Beijing regime.”
“That such an attack could happen without the connivance of the Chinese communist authorities is totally ruled out,” he said in a statement to The Epoch Times. “Alongside sophisticated 21st-century technology, Beijing also uses methods that are a hundred or two hundred years old.”