Most recently it was the firebombing of the offices of Next Media, which runs the pro-democracy newspaper Apple Daily, and the home of its former proprietor, the outspoken Jimmy Lai, on Jan. 11, that triggered the wave of concern.
“These are obvious acts by gangsters,” said Ching Cheong, a well-known senior political reporter and commentator with the Singaporean newspaper The Straits Times, in an interview with Epoch Times.
“What we need to seriously consider is whether it’s the Chinese regime’s policy to rule Hong Kong with gangsters,” Ching said.
“If that is the case, the people of Hong Kong must oppose it strongly, for I believe this is a dangerous path.”
“If the Chinese regime decides to hire gangsters to silence any voice that it finds displeasing, every single citizen in Hong Kong should be on high alert,” he said.
Later in the day on Jan. 11, a young man stole multiple bundles of newspapers, including Apple Daily, Ming Pao and Wen Wei Po, from a grocery store in Kowloon. Most of the papers stolen were Apple Daily.
The suspect got away after police tried unsuccessfully to apprehend him, firing four shots at his getaway vehicle.
— SpyEast (@SpyEast) January 12, 2015
Ching Cheong compared the violence to the pro-communist violent protests against British colonial rule in Hong Kong in 1967.
“After the leftists started the violent protests, they set radio commentator Lam Bun on fire and burned him alive,” Ching said. “I hope all the leftists take a moment to think: Why is violence always connected to leftists? Is violence simply one of the leftists’ tactics?”
Lam Bun was a radio commentator at Commercial Radio Hong Kong who strongly criticized the leftists during the violence in Hong Kong back in the 1960s. After his death, Lam has been widely recognized as an icon for free speech in the region.
In China, Maoist leftists have a well-documented record of taking a hardline stance against the United States and engagement with the West in general.
Many Hong Kong lawmakers have spoken up to denounce the violence. “The aggressive pressure on Hong Kong media should be condemned because it is a form of ‘white terror,’ and also stifles the freedom of speech and the press,” said Alan Leung, leader of the Civic Party, one of the main pro-democratic groups.
Another Civic Party lawmaker, Claudia Mo, pointed out that violence must be politically motivated. “Looking back at violence and harassment against Jimmy Lai and Next Media over the past six months, it’s a systematic plan to silence certain voices,” Mo said in an interview with Epoch Times.
During the height of the Umbrella Movement, a pro-democracy occupation of roads in Hong Kong, the Next Media building was also besieged by protesters who were attempting to stop the distribution of Apple Daily. Many assumed they were being paid for their presence and harassment.
Emily Lau, chairwoman of the Democratic Party, speaking to Hong Kong media, said that after multiple violent incidents targeting media in Hong Kong went unresolved, criminals now have the impression that they can act with impunity.
— Kris Cheng (@krislc) January 13, 2015
— Tom Grundy (@tomgrundy) January 13, 2015
Sham Yee Lan, chairperson of the Hong Kong Journalist’s Association, said the perpetrators are “burning alive freedom of speech and the free press in Hong Kong,” and “openly challenging the rule of law.”