Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Attacking HK's Press Freedom

A man with a firebomb about to attack Jimmy Lai's home in Ho Man Tin
It's strange that even though the Occupy/Umbrella Movement is over, and Next Media Founder Jimmy Lai Chee-ying has been asked to report to the police next week, that his home and head office would be attacked with firebombs in the early hours of Monday morning.

They were coordinated attacks because the first one happened at about 1.45am Monday when a man wearing a surgical mask and hood threw a Molotov cocktail at the front gate of Lai's home on Kadoorie Avenue in Ho Man Tin. He then fled in a seven-seat car driven by another person.

A security guard put out the fire and called police; Lai was at home at the time.

Then five minutes later there was another firebomb hurled from another car at the gate of Next Media's headquarters on Chun Ying Street in Tseung Kwan O. The car was driven to another entrance and another Molotov cocktail was thrown.

Again security guards put out the flames and called the authorities.

The two cars were later found torched on Tai Woh Ping Road in Shek Kip Mei, and Sham Mong Road in Cheung Sha Wan before 2.30pm. In one report the license plates of the two cars were removed...

Lai was at the Admiralty protest site practically everyday
Police said that while no one was injured in the attacks, they are looking for possible motives. "The attacks were calculated," a police source said. "We believe it was designed to send a warning rather than an attempt to harm anyone."

Meanwhile the pan-democrats condemned the attacks, saying it was an attempt to silence the media and create "white terror".

Democratic Party chairwoman Emily Lau Wai-hing said the police must do its utmost to solve all cases of violence against media workers, or the city would become "lawless".

"Most of the cases [of violence against the press] were not solved. This is just like sending a message, 'You can go hit them because there will be no consequences'. This is lawless."

Lai has experienced attacks before -- most recently during the Umbrella Movement when someone threw offal at his face at the protest site in Admiralty in November.

And in June 2013, someone rammed a stolen car into the front gate of his home and then an axe and a machete were placed on the driveway before the perpetrator(s) fled the scene.

What Lai and Next Media represent is freedom of the press -- since many of the big advertisers will not buy ads in his stable of publications, what he publishes in print and online are pretty pure in terms of free speech and media.

For someone to send a warning now doesn't make much sense particularly since Lai has formally stepped down as editor-in-chief to apparently spend more time with his family, unless there's another angle to this story we are not aware of.

But Lau is right. The police really need to get to the bottom of this incident and any others involving journalists. Our freedoms in Hong Kong are quietly crumbling, and while we made of show of this during the Umbrella Movement, we still need to do whatever we can to keep propping them up...




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