At 4:30 a.m. on Tuesday, four masked men broke into the Hong Kong printing facility of The Epoch Times, a newspaper openly critical of the Chinese Communist Party, and smashed its office computers, stole other computer parts and poured concrete mix over the printing machines.
Wielding hammers and knives, the intruders forced themselves past the facility’s overnight crew, an assault recorded on CCTV. While the attack only took about two minutes, the damage was sufficient to grind the Hong Kong printing operation to a halt, resulting in the temporary suspension of the paper’s distribution.
“This incident was to suppress Hong Kong’s freedom of speech and intended to silence media which tells the truth,” Epoch Times spokeswoman Cheryl Ng said. “We condemn violence and never back down.”
The timing was notable: The attack came just ahead of Friday’s scheduled court appearance for seven central pro-democracy figures: media tycoon Jimmy Lai, barrister Martin Lee and former lawmakers Leung Kwok-hung, Margaret Ng, Lee Cheuk-yan, Albert Ho and Cyd Ho — all veteran activists.
The Beijing regime has been on a rampage, overseeing a sweeping crackdown against dissidents in Hong Kong following the massive pro-democracy protests in 2019. The Communist authorities are implementing a new national-security law that essentially criminalizes anyone who dare cross Beijing.
The assault on The Epoch Times printing plant isn’t surprising. The paper exposes unsavory facts about China’s Communist regime. The regime can’t have that now.
If billionaires like Jimmy Lai — who founded Hong Kong’s biggest pro-democracy newspaper, Apple Daily — can’t peacefully assemble at a protest, then the Commies aren’t going to permit The Epoch Times, a newspaper affiliated with the banned Falun Gong movement, to continue operating, either.
That, at least, is the implied attitude.
Ng, the Epoch Times’ spokeswoman, said the attack had all the hallmarks of the Chinese Communist Party: its thuggery, its impunity and its undying impulse to silence an independent organization from reporting truths.
This week’s incident wasn’t the first time the newspaper’s printing plants came under attack. Far from it. On Nov. 19, 2019, four individuals broke in and started a fire. In December 2012, seven men attempted to break in but fled after police were called. In October that same year, another band of thugs tried to break in but couldn’t smash through the gate. And in February 2006, intruders broke in and sought to smash the presses.
Freedom of the press is all but gone in Hong Kong. The index of it done by the Hong Kong Journalists Association has recorded a steep drop over the past year, thanks in large part to “local journalists becoming the targets of extralegal intimidation or physical violence when reporting.” In Reporters Without Borders’ ranking of world press freedom, Hong Kong plummeted from 18th place in 2002 to 80th in 2020. (China remains firmly in 177th place out of 180.)
As the great analyst of democracy Alexis de Tocqueville put it, a free press has “its eye, always open” and “constantly lays bare the secret springs of politics and forces public men to come in turn to appear before the court of public opinion.”
The Chinese Communist Party will never allow itself be subjected to such sunlight. Besides, it’s far too busy imprisoning innocent men and women fighting for their personal liberties.
Elisha Maldonado is a member of the New York Post Editorial Board and a senior fellow at the Independent Women’s Forum.