Concerns after home, office of HK tycoon bombed

Concerns after home, office of HK tycoon bombed

HONG KONG - Firebomb attacks on the Hong Kong home and office of pro-democracy newspaper tycoon Jimmy Lai have triggered new fears over the safety of outspoken media figures in the city.

Yesterday's twin attacks came as tension remains high in the city after more than two months of protests seeking free leadership elections. They ended when rally camps were cleared last month.

Mr Lai was targeted during the protests by a group of men who threw rotten meat at him. The printworks producing his outspoken Apple Daily newspaper were also attacked.

"Anti-democratic forces in Hong Kong keep resorting to violence," Mr Lai's spokesman, Mark Simon, told AFP. "Violence and intimidation seem to be the ongoing currency for those opposed to democracy and free press."

Yesterday's almost-simultaneous attacks came just before 2am at Mr Lai's home and the headquarters of Next Media, the publisher of Apple Daily, which some regard as sensationalist.

Security camera footage uploaded on the Apple Daily website showed a masked man throwing a flaming glass bottle towards the gate of Mr Lai's mansion. It explodes on the ground outside as the suspect flees in a car.

Footage from outside the Next Media headquarters also showed a flaming bottle thrown at the building entrance. There were no injuries.

The city's Justice Minister Rimsky Yuen condemned the attacks and said the police would investigate the firebombing like any other criminal act.

Mr Simon said the attacks were "more depressing than shocking", and added that Mr Lai, 66, went back to bed after being told what had happened.

"He is psychologically prepared for anything. It's Jimmy Lai," Mr Simon told AFP.

The firebombings took place against a backdrop of increased vigilance at media organisations across the globe, after last week's deadly attacks on the Charlie Hebdo satirical magazine in Paris.

"No matter what we think about the newspaper and its content and style, the fact remains that it is almost a lone voice among the Hong Kong media in its pro-democracy stance," said veteran television journalist Chan Yuen Man, now a lecturer at the Chinese University.

"People in the news media are right to be worried."

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