HONG KONG — The home and former offices of Hong Kong media tycoon Jimmy Lai, an outspoken critic of Beijing who also played a prominent role in large pro-democracy protests last month, were firebombed early on Monday, a spokesman said.
The first attack took place around 1:30am local time when an unknown car reversed up to Lai’s house and threw an object that exploded into flames when it hit the gates. About 20 minutes later, one or two other incendiary devices were thrown at the gates of Next Media Ltd.
“This is a continual effort to try to intimidate the press in Hong Kong,” said Next Media spokesman Mark Simon. “This is raw and pure intimidation.”
Hong Kong police confirmed they are looking into two incidents, one at a residence on Kadoorie Avenue in Kowloon and one at the offices of Next Media.
Lai, who stepped down as chairman of Next Media and as publisher of the popular, pro-democracy Apple Daily tabloid in December, is a well-known critic of Beijing.
He was arrested for refusing to leave a pro-democracy protest site in central Hong Kong last month as police cleared protesters who had shut major thoroughfares in the city for two-and-a-half months.
A self-made millionaire, Lai is a long-time supporter of Hong Kong’s democracy movement. This is not the first time he and Next have come under attack.
In 2013, masked men torched tens of thousands of copies of two Apple Daily editions at distribution points.
Last year, Next said HSBC Holdings and Standard Chartered had pulled millions of dollars worth of advertising from Apple Daily after being pressured by Beijing, decisions both banks said were commercial.
Lai’s home has been attacked before, including being rammed by a car and having a machete, axe, and threatening messages left in his driveway.
He remains the majority shareholder in Next Media, which publishes Next Magazine and the Apple Daily.