Co-ordinated attacks were made today on the home and offices of Hong Kong media tycoon Jimmy Lai.
The attacks occurred in the small hours of Monday morning local time, only hours after over a million people and 40 world leaders took to the streets of Paris in support of press freedom, democracy and unity. The French rallies were sparked by the execution of journalists and cartoonists last week at French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo.
Masked men threw a small incendiary device into Lai’s home in the exclusive Kadoorie Avenue area and simultaneously threw similar flares or petrol bombs into the offices of his Next Media company in Tsuen Kwan O.
Shortly after, Hong Kong police opened fire on a car which refused to stop at a checkpoint, but it is not clear if that incident was connected to the twin attacks.
Lai (aka Lai Chee-ying) is one of the most prominent anti-Beijing voices in Hong Kong and, through his Apple Daily newspaper, was one of the leading supporters of the recent ‘Occupy Central’ movement.
The attacks were not the first on Lai’s home. He has also previously received death threats and the websites of Apple Daily have suffered multiple cyber-attacks, which Lai has blamed on hackers sponsored by mainland Chinese authorities.
Lai was recently arrested by Hong Kong police in a series of legal follow-up measures being taken by the Hong Kong authorities since the actions of ‘Occupy Central’ and the ‘Umbrella’ movement closed streets in several parts of the city over an 11 week period.
The protesters, with Lai prominent among them, were challenging the proposals for public election of Hong Kong’s chief executive, which they denounced as “fake democracy.” Under a system ordered by Beijing, adults in Hong Kong will be able to elect their leader from 2017, but only from a list of two or three candidates chosen by the mainland Chinese authorities.
Both the proposed electoral system and the multiple encroachments on press freedom in Hong Kong are seen by many commentators as evidence of Beijing’s direct rule in the territory and of China’s growing intolerance for dissent.