HONG KONG • A Hong Kong newspaper linked to a spiritual group banned in China has said it would "never back down" after a gang of sledgehammer-wielding men damaged its printing presses.
The assault on The Epoch Times was captured on closed-circuit television and comes as China oversees a sweeping crackdown against critics in Hong Kong following huge and often violent democracy protests in 2019.
Footage released by the paper showed four masked men storming into the printing plant in the early hours of Monday morning and smashing up equipment.
They also threw concrete rubble into machinery as terrified staff members looked on.
The Epoch Times said the assault knocked out its presses, but vowed to print again soon.
"This incident was to suppress Hong Kong's freedom of speech and intended to silence media which tells the truth," Epoch Times spokesman Cheryl Ng said in a statement yesterday.
"We condemn violence and (will) never back down."
The Epoch Times is linked to Falun Gong, a spiritual movement that is banned in mainland China and prosecuted by the authorities there.
Falun Gong, however, maintains a presence in semi-autonomous Hong Kong and practitioners give The Epoch Times out at street booths.
Globally, the paper is printed in eight languages and publishes in 21 languages online, often penning scathing pieces about China's government.
The media group also became a staunch supporter of former United States president Donald Trump.
But it has something of a controversial reputation, with detractors accusing it of employing aggressive social media tactics and right-wing misinformation to create a fervently anti-China, pro-Trump media empire.
The Hong Kong Journalists Association and the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Hong Kong both condemned the attack.
Hong Kong police confirmed its organised crime unit had taken over the case and that no arrests had been made so far.
"Police received a report saying that the suspects claimed the staff from the above company owed loans and used hammers to destroy five computer screens and one printer," the force said.
But Ms Ng said that was news to her. "As far as I know, there is no such debt situation," she told Agence France-Presse.
Violent attacks on the media in Hong Kong are rare but not unheard of.
Journalists and editors critical of Beijing have previously been assaulted, often by assailants with links to organised crime.
Radio host Albert Cheng, publisher Chen Ping and Jimmy Lai - the now jailed owner of the pro-democracy Apple Daily tabloid - have all survived attacks by "triad" organised crime members.