Arson attacks on home and office of Hong Kong media tycoon

Arson attacks on home and office of Hong Kong media tycoon

Arson attacks on home and office of Hong Kong media tycoon

The Hong Kong home and office of pro-democracy media tycoon Jimmy Lai was hit by arson attacks in the early hours today, police said.

The attacks came as tension remains high in the southern Chinese city after more than two months of protests for free leadership elections, which ended when rally camps were cleared in December.

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

Today's two almost simultaneous arson attacks were reported just before 2:00 am (1800 GMT) at Lai's home and the Next Media headquarters, which publishes Apple Daily, according to a police spokeswoman.

"The cases have been classified as arson. We are still verifying the details," she told AFP.

Police have made no arrests so far and investigations were under way, she added, without giving further details. There were no reports of injuries and images from the scenes show no significant damage to the buildings.

The South China Morning Post website said both incidents had involved petrol bombs and that no-one had been injured.

Blurred images on the website showed a masked man standing beside a sedan throwing a flaming object towards Lai's home in the upmarket neighbourhood of Ho Man Tin in Kowloon.

Two cars suspected to have been used in the attacks were later found torched, the SCMP said.

The attacks come amid concerns over increased Chinese influence on the city and an erosion of press freedom, following a series of high-profile attacks on journalists.

They also take place against a backdrop of increased vigilance at media organisations across the globe in the wake of the deadly attacks on the Charlie Hebdo satirical magazine in Paris.

Lai, 66, was a regular visitor to the protest camps in Hong Kong which brought parts of the city to a standstill from September.

He was arrested at the clearance of the main Admiralty protest site in December and has been asked to appear at a police station later this month to help with the investigation into the demonstrations.

Police have promised to target the "principal instigators" of the protests which called for full democracy after China declared that candidates for the city's leadership in 2017 would be vetted by a loyalist committee.

Lai stepped down as chairman of Next Media in December following his arrest, citing his desire to spend more time with his family. He is still a major shareholder of the company.