U.S. senators on Nov. 19 condemned an arson attack on the Hong Kong Epoch Times’ printing shop, saying it was part of a “disturbing trend” and the latest evidence that the Chinese regime would not uphold its promise in the territory.
The lawmakers made the comments on Tuesday evening soon after the Senate unanimously passed the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, which they said would be a strong message to Beijing that suppression and violence are not the answer to the people of Hong Kong. Protesters have taken to the streets since June to oppose they saw as Beijing’s steady erosion of the city’s basic freedoms.
Hong Kong reverted from British to Chinese rule in 1997, under the express guarantee that its autonomy be preserved.
Early morning on Nov. 19 local time, four masked assailants, two of them carrying batons, carried containers filled with flammable liquid into the printing press of the Hong Kong edition of The Epoch Times. After pouring the liquid onto the floor, printing machines, and nearby stacks of papers, they set a fire. The incident is suspected to be the latest intimidation tactic of the Chinese Communist Party to discourage The Epoch Times from reporting on topics that could be sensitive to the Chinese regime.
The Epoch Times has been a leading voice in independent reporting on the protests in Hong Kong in recent months.
In response to the incident, Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) called it “deeply disturbing.”
“Any assault on the freedom of the press is an assault of the liberty that was promised to the people of Hong Kong,” he said. “It’s an assault to the basic function of a democracy.”
Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) said that he was “not surprised,” but “very disappointed” to see such actions taking place.
He said that assaulting “freedom of the press is the first task of tyrants and I think that’s exactly what they’re trying to do.”
Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) said that the fire signaled a “very disturbing trend” and an example of what serves as an “impetus” for he and his colleagues to pass the bill.
He went on to name the ongoing suppression of religious minorities in China, including Muslim-practicing Uyghurs and other minorities in the northwestern region of Xinjiang, and of freedom of expression—all of which “has been very much in the wrong direction in China.”
“Only a totalitarian regime is afraid of what is written by the press,” Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) said. “If you have truth on your side, you’re never afraid about being written by the press.”
“That in and of itself is another concerning violation of the type of basic rights we support in the United States,” he added.
The fire had damaged two printing machines, four rolls of printing paper, and several stacks of newspapers in the factory. The total loss from the fire is still being assessed.
From The Epoch Times