Silence from the Hong Kong authorities over an attack on the printing presses of a newspaper critical of Beijing is fostering a “climate of suspicion” against journalists and “encouraging” violent attacks on the media, an international press freedom watchdog has warned.
The Epoch Times resumed its printing operations on Friday morning, three days after four men attacked its equipment with sledgehammers.
“By leaving previous attacks on journalists unpunished and creating a climate of suspicion against independent media outlets, the Hong Kong authorities are encouraging such violence,” head of Reporters Without Borders East Asia bureau Cédric Alviani said in a statement on Wednesday.
Alviani called on Chief Executive Carrie Lam to “put an end to her government’s attacks, which are threatening media independence, and restore full freedom of the press as enshrined in the Basic Law she is supposed to enforce.”
Tuesday’s attack is the second time the newspaper, which is linked to the Falun Gong – a spiritual group banned and persecuted in mainland China – has been attacked since 2019, when four baton-wielding men set fire to its printing warehouse at the height of the city’s pro-democracy protests.
The attack has been condemned by both the Hong Kong Journalists Association and the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Hong Kong.
The Chief Executive’s Office did not reply to enquiries when approached twice this week by HKFP for a response. In 2019, the government and police released a statement to “severely condemn” an attack by protesters on a journalist from Chinese state-run outlet Global Times.
Lam vowed to take action against “fake news” in February. Last Thursday, she complained that her government has been the “the biggest victim” of misinformation.
The attack comes amid growing concerns over the state of press freedom in Hong Kong as authorities move to crack down on all political dissent follow months of pro-democracy protests in 2019.
Rights group Amnesty International Hong Kong warned of “unprecedented pressure” on the press, with journalists in Hong Kong risking arrest and attacks on their personal safety.