HONG KONG (AFP) – Firebomb attacks on the Hong Kong home and office of pro-democracy newspaper tycoon Jimmy Lai Monday have triggered new fears over the safety of outspoken media figures in the city.
The twin attacks in the early hours of the morning came as tension remains high in the southern Chinese city after more than two months of protests for free leadership elections, which ended when rally camps were cleared in December.
Lai was targeted during the protests by a group of men who threw rotten meat at him and printworks producing his outspoken Apple Daily newspaper were repeatedly attacked.
Other journalists and media workers have also been targeted including the former editor of liberal newspaper Ming Pao who was stabbed in the street in broad daylight last February.
“Anti-democratic forces in Hong Kong keep resorting to violence,” Lai’s spokesman Mark Simon told AFP.
“Violence and intimation seem to be the ongoing currency for those opposed to democracy and free press. There is no other plausible explanation here.”
Monday’s two almost simultaneous attacks were reported just before 2am (1800 GMT) at Lai’s home and the Next Media headquarters, which publishes Apple Daily, according to a police spokeswoman.
“The cases have been classified as arson. We are still verifying the details,” the spokeswoman told AFP.
Security camera footage uploaded to the Apple Daily website shows a masked man throwing a flaming glass bottle towards the gate of Lai’s mansion in upmarket Ho Man Tin. It explodes on the ground outside as the suspect flees in a car.
Footage from outside the Next Media headquarters in a suburban industrial park also shows a flaming bottle thrown towards the building entrance and smashing on the ground.
There were no reports of injuries.
Simon said the attacks were “more depressing than shocking” for Hong Kong and the free press.
He added that Lai, 66, had been told of what happened and quickly went back to bed.
“He is psychologically prepared for anything. It’s Jimmy Lai,” Simon told AFP.
The South China Morning Post newspaper reported that two cars suspected to have been used in the attacks were later found torched.
No arrests have been made so far, police said.