Ram-raider leaves machete message at home of tycoon Jimmy Lai
A bizarre warning was delivered to media mogul Jimmy Lai Chee-ying in the early hours of yesterday when the front gate to his home was rammed with a stolen car and a man then placed an axe and a machete on the driveway before fleeing the scene.
The episode, which was caught by security cameras, led to concerns yesterday about a possible threat to press freedom.
A senior police officer said the attack appeared to be a warning rather than an attempt to harm anyone. Lai was at home with his wife at the time of the attack.
"There's not much to be scared about," Lai told reporters waiting for him after he breakfasted at the Luk Yu Tea House in Central.
But Democratic Party lawmaker James To Kun-sun said it was a serious crime and a threat to press freedom.
"The simple answer is yes, I am worried about [press and speech freedom]," said To, deputy chairman of the Legislative Council security panel.
"To leave a knife at the gate like that - that's a threat. It's a serious crime in itself. But with Mr Lai's overwhelming image of being associated with the media, I am worried it is a threat to press freedom."
Police were called to the house in Mong Kok moments after the gates were rammed.
About 20 minutes later, a Toyota car was found abandoned at the Kwai Chung Interchange in Lai Chi Kok.
A police spokesman said the engine was running but the car was empty, save for a knife cover. A door lock and the ignition were damaged, along with the boot and rear bumper. The car's 53-year-old owner told police it had been stolen while parked in Tsuen Wan on Tuesday night.
Police said footage from the security cameras showed a car reversing at speed into the gate, partly knocking it down.
A man leapt out to leave the weapons before the car sped away.
Detectives from Kowloon City district crime squad are investigating.
Lai is the chairman of Next Media and a critic of the Communist Party. It is not the first time the tycoon's personal safety has been threatened.
A mainland man was jailed for 16 years for plotting to shoot Lai and former Democratic Party chairman Martin Lee Chu-ming. The man was caught in 2008 at a Mong Kok police roadblock with a pistol, bullets and personal information on Lai and Lee.
Subsequently, three triad leaders together with eight other triad members were arrested for playing a key part in the plot to shoot the two men. The 11 were found guilty and sentenced to between five and 18 years in jail.
Police evidence pointed to a Hong Kong businessman living in Taiwan as having put up a US$1 million payment for the hits.
In 2008, a tree outside Lai's home was set alight.
Police said three bottles filled with fuel had been placed in a plastic bag, positioned on the tree, and then set alight, causing a small explosion.