Four masked intruders on Tuesday morning broke into the Epoch Times Hong Kong warehouse and set fire to its printed newspapers before they could be distributed throughout the city.
This is the fourth attack on the Hong Kong print warehouse since it opened more than a decade ago, according to the Epoch Times’ own report of the incident. The newspaper, whose Hong Kong edition has provided regular coverage of pro-democracy protests in the city, believes it was targeted by Chinese Communist Party (CCP) sympathizers.
Surveillance footage shows 2 of the men dressed in all black carrying batons, while one of them holds newspapers, and another carries two containers containing a flammable liquid, which he poured onto the factory machines and newspapers. pic.twitter.com/CQe0jaAcRq
— The Epoch Times (@EpochTimes) November 19, 2019
The attack reportedly took place around 3:40 a.m. as the factory opened its doors to begin delivering its newspapers throughout the city. Two of the masked attackers brandished batons and yelled at the factory workers to stay where they were. Another masked attacker could be seen carrying containers of flammable liquid, which he began pouring on the newspaper copies as well and the factory floor around the printing presses.
One man set fire to flammable liquids before just before the four intruders took off running. In total, the attack lasted about two minutes.
A sprinkler system was triggered by the flames and one worker grabbed a fire extinguisher to help put out the fires. The workers then called the nearby police and fire department. The factory is still assessing the damages but has counted two printing machines, four rolls of printing paper, and several stacks of paper damaged by the fires and the activation of the sprinkler system.
Some of the attackers could be seen wearing black, which is common of the pro-democracy protesters who have demonstrated against mainland Chinese legal encroachments in Hong Kong since June. Guo Jun, the director for Epoch Times’ Hong Kong edition, suggested the dress appearance of the attackers may have been a CCP ploy to frame the pro-democracy protest movement.
Pro-democracy demonstrators have claimed members of the CCP have recruited local Triad crime syndicates to scare off the protests and intimidate protest organizers.
“I don’t think they were protesters because there is no reason for them to do so,” Cheryl Ng, a spokesperson for Epoch Times’ Hong Kong edition, said of the attackers.
In a previous incident this year, copies of the Hong Kong publication were pulled from shelves in 7-eleven stores throughout the city. No explanation was given for the sudden move. Cédric Alviani, the director for the East Asia division of Reporters Without Borders said no other explanation “but the pressure from the Chinese authorities” to trigger the removal.
The Epoch Times reported efforts in October and December 2012, to break into the Hong Kong print warehouse. In a February 2006 incident, another attacker reportedly broke in and attempted to smash the printing presses.
In September 2006, another a computer worker for the Hong Kong edition was reportedly kidnapped and coerced by Chinese authorities to sabotage the newspaper.
According to Reuters, Hong Kong’s Apple Daily publication has also alleged attacks stemming from their coverage of the recent months of protests.