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Hong Kong’s Next Media has put up a reward of $129,000 (1 million Hong Kong dollars) for information leading to the arrest of the parties behind a series of attacks on the news group.
In the latest incident, at 12:30am on Sunday, three armed men wearing masks broke into one of the company’s buildings in Central, Hong Kong, and intimidated workers before burning 26,000 copies of the Sunday issue of the media group’s popular tabloid, The Apple Daily.
Next Media, led by its founder and chairman Jimmy Lai Chee-ying was quick to condemn the attacks: “[We are] offering a reward of HK$1 million to anyone who can provide information or clues that could lead directly to the detection of the cases,” the South China Morning Post reported the company as saying.
Next Media is the largest media company listed on the Hong Kong stock exchange. Lai and his Apple Daily broadsheet are known for a strong pro-democracy stance in Hong Kong, and have been consitently critical of the Hong Kong government since the territory was handed back to China from English colonial rule in 1997.
“There’s no need to worry. It’s only a childish act. This will not affect [my newspaper’s editorial policy],” Lai told the SCMP.
The incident came on the eve of Hong Kong’s annual pro-democracy March held on July 1, the anniversary of the handover to China.
“It’s good thing. It will drive more people to take to the streets,” the media boss added, referring to the annual pro-democracy March schedule to take place on the streets of Hong Kong.
Several hundred thousand people were expected to take part in Monday’s protest, a call for universal suffrage in the territory, which currently elects its top leader, the Chief Executive of Hong Kong, through an electoral college, most of whose members are appointed and not elected by the people. Since its return to China, Hong Kong has had a constitutionally guaranteed status as a “Special Administrative Region” of China, meaning its courts, economy, legal system and local affairs are allowed to operate as autonomous from the mainland.
Lai has been a vocal advocate for the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong and is noted for his anti-communist views. Many companies with direct ties to the mainland Chinese government have boycotted advertising in his publications. Lai has also occasionally run afoul of Hong Kong’s triads for exposing corruption and covering issues deemed sensitive to the crime syndicates’ activities.
The latest attack on Next Media on Sunday was the fourth in just two weeks. On June 19, a stolen car was driven into the front gate of Lai’s home in the Ho Man Tin district of Hong Kong. An axe and machete were left in his driveway (the ownership of firearms is strictly regulated in Hong Kong; as such, political and gangland assassinations in the city are typically carried out with handheld weapons). Seven days later two men hijacked an Apple Daily delivery van and burned all of the copies of the paper onboard before escaping on foot. And just hours before the attack on the company’s downtown facility on Sunday, a machete was found placed outside the entrance of one of the company’s other office buildings in the Tseung Kwan O neighborhood.
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