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Attacks on Hong Kong news outlets must be prosecuted

Jimmy Lai's Apple Daily newspaper is known for its outspoken criticism of China. (Reuters/Nicky Loh)

Hong Kong, July 3, 2013--The Committee to Protect Journalists calls on Hong Kong authorities to expedite investigations into recent attacks against news outlets known for being critical of China. In the most recent attack targeting Next Media Limited on June 30, three masked men threatened distribution workers with knives, then burned 26,000 copies of the group's Chinese-language newspaper Apple Daily, according to news reports.

"The fact that the perpetrators behind this spate of attacks have not been identified and brought to justice reflects very poorly on the Hong Kong government's attitude toward media," said Bob Dietz, CPJ Asia program coordinator in New York. "Unsolved and unpunished crimes such as this are not in keeping with the rule of law that Hong Kong prides itself on maintaining."

The attacks on Next Media began on June 19, when a stolen car was rammed into the front gate of the home of Chairman Jimmy Lai. This was followed on June 21 by the beating of a Sharp Daily journalist and the June 30 discovery of a machete placed outside the entrance of the group's building. Sharp Daily is a free Chinese-language tabloid published in Taiwan and Hong Kong and shares copy with Apple Daily.

Next Media has been highly critical of Hong Kong's government since the former British colony returned to Chinese rule in 1997. The group has offered a reward of 1 million Hong Kong dollars (US$129,000) to anyone who would provide information leading to arrests.  

Lai told local the press on Sunday that he does not feel threatened: "There's no need to worry, this will not affect my newspapers' editorial policy," he said. Apple Daily reporters told CPJ that security at their newspaper office has been stepped up. 

In a June 3 attack relating to another media company, iSun Affairs publisher Chen Ping was beaten by a group of baton-wielding men. The website of the Hong Kong-based monthly print magazine is updated regularly with breaking news and is known for its outspoken reporting on sensitive mainland issues.

While violence against journalists was once rare in Hong Kong, the city has seen a rise in attacks in the past five years, with at least six cases of attacks, beatings, and detentions recorded in the past year, according to data collected by the Hong Kong Journalists Association.

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