The printing press used by the Hong Kong edition of The Epoch Times was monitored by a black van, which has also followed the facility’s staff in recent days, in the latest act believed to be organized by the Chinese regime to silence free press in the city.
As one of the few independent outlets in Hong Kong, The Epoch Times is known for covering internal factional politics within the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), as well as the regime’s suppression of freedoms at home and abroad.
Since its establishment in 2002, The Hong Kong edition of The Epoch Times has faced tremendous pressure from the CCP and its affiliated organizations. In November 2019, four masked intruders set a fire in the paper’s printing warehouse, marking the fourth attack on the facility since its opening more than a decade ago.
Hong Kong has seen the curtailing of its freedoms since the regime imposed a national security law in July. Several arrests of media figures and reporters since then have also stoked fears of a crackdown on the free press in the city.
According to the deputy director of Hong Kong Epoch Times, Lu Jie, the van is a seven-seater black Toyota with a Hong Kong license plate, on which the first letter is V.
At around 4 a.m. local time on Nov. 18, the newspaper’s delivery staff went to the facility located in the Tsuen Wan area, and first saw the van.
“The people sitting inside the van were monitoring us,” Lu said.
The next day, the delivery staff saw the same van parked at the same spot with people inside observing the facility.
On the afternoon of the following day, the printing press staff saw that the same vehicle appeared to be following them in the area of Kowloon. The staff saw that there were three men in their 30s inside the van.
Lu said that the media was unable to check the registration records of the Toyota van after the Hong Kong government changed regulations in 2019.
He said the monitoring and stalking were also done by other vehicles and people in recent months.
On the afternoon of Nov. 13, two suspected men were seen outside the printing press. Lu said that staff had seen these two men before when they participated in the activities organized by the Hong Kong Youth Care Association Limited, an organization backed by the CCP.
“Several months ago, our printing press staff reported that they were followed by unknown cars,” Lu said.
Targeted by Beijing
Ching Cheong, a Hong Kong-based political commentator, said the CCP is targeting the outlet because it’s one of the only media in the city that reports critically on the communist regime.
Cheong said the CCP was surveilling the printing press and its staff to try to gather information about the newspaper’s operations, such as how many copies of the paper are printed and distributed daily, and where the paper is distributed.
The regime can then use this information to “ruin” the newspaper, Cheong said.
Chan King-ming, a Hong Kong academic and commentator, said that recently, pro-democracy politicians have also reported being followed by suspected agents of the regime.
He said the surveilling of the paper’s printing press indicates that the regime’s security agency has “opened a file” for the purpose of eliminating the Hong Kong Epoch Times.
Chan urged Hongkongers to take action to defend the city’s freedoms.
“Facing this difficult period in Hong Kong, I hope everyone will do their part to expose the truth.”
Sarah Liang, a reporter with the Hong Kong edition of The Epoch Times, contributed to this report.