Source: NYT (1/12/15)
Firebombs Thrown at Jimmy Lai’s Home and Company in Hong Kong
By AUSTIN RAMZY
Assailants threw firebombs at a pro-democracy Hong Kong media outlet and at the home of its owner early Monday, heightening concerns about threats to press freedom.
Later Monday morning, a police sergeant fired his gun at a van that ran over his leg during an investigation of suspected theft of newspapers from a newsstand, a Hong Kong police spokesman told reporters. The sergeant had climbed into the van, but he was thrown out, and the vehicle ran over his leg, the police said. He is being treated at Queen Elizabeth Hospital.
The sergeant fired as many as four shots, the police spokesman said. It is rare for police officers to discharge their weapons in Hong Kong, where personal firearms are highly restricted. The police would not say whether the altercation with a man and young woman in the van was connected to the attack on the headquarters of the Next Media Group and the home of its owner and founder, Jimmy Lai. Apple Daily, a newspaper owned by Next Media, reported that its newspapers had been targeted in the alleged theft attempt.
Apple Daily has been a vocal advocate of the recent demonstrations for expanded democracy in Hong Kong. Mr. Lai frequently attended the protests, which saw several main thoroughfares occupied for more than two months. He was arrested and released in December when the authorities dismantled the main camp in the Admiralty neighborhood. Mr. Lai has also been under investigation by Hong Kong’s anticorruption agency in connection with donations to the pro-democracy camp.
Mark Simon, an aide to Mr. Lai, said the firebombs caused no injuries or significant property damage, but he considered them an escalation of violence and “an attack on dissident voices.”
“It’s just extremely disappointing that basically the only thing they got left is violence; that’s the case being made against peaceful democracy and civil disobedience,” Mr. Simon said. “Nobody is making the argument anymore. They’re just throwing firebombs.”
Next Media said two entryways to its headquarters in Hong Kong’s Tseung Kwan O neighborhood were hit with firebombs around 1 a.m. Monday. At about the same time, a masked man got out of a car outside Mr. Lai’s home in the Ho Man Tin neighborhood and threw a firebomb at the sidewalk outside the gate. Two cars suspected of being those used in the attacks were later found burning in nearby areas of Kowloon.
Mr. Lai and his Next Media properties have long been targets for assault, as Neil Gough wrote Monday in a profile of Mr. Lai.
Jimmy Lai, Hong Kong’s most fiercely anti-Communist tycoon, calls himself a rebel who likes to make trouble — and he has found no shortage of it.
The owner of the city’s biggest pro-democracy publishing empire, Mr. Lai has seen his house firebombed and his company’s offices ransacked; he has been the target of an assassination plot and, recently, of multiple online attacks by what he suspects were state-sponsored hackers.
In 2013 a man rammed a stolen vehicle into the gate of Mr. Lai’s home, leaving a knife and a hatchet at the scene before fleeing.
Mr. Simon said that aside from the 2009 murder plot, for which a plotter was sentenced to 16 years in prison, investigations into assaults on properties of Mr. Lai’s and Next Media have not resulted in significant breakthroughs. In December, Mr. Lai stepped down as the chairman of Next Media and publisher of Apple Daily.
The firebombings are the latest in a series of violent episodes targeting journalists in Hong Kong. In February, Kevin Lau, who had recently been dismissed as editor of the Ming Pao newspaper, was stabbed in his back and legs by an attacker on a motorcycle. A month later, two executives of a publication that was still under development were assaulted by men with metal bars.
Alan Wong contributed reporting.