Hong Kong news agency threatened and harassed over report on recall of defective mainland-made trains

Report on 26 Singapore trains found with cracks caused stir in city as same manufacturer made trains for MTR urban lines and express rail link to Guangzhou

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 18 August, 2016, 10:27am
UPDATED : Thursday, 18 August, 2016, 11:18am

A Hong Kong-based news agency said its work had been interrupted due to harassment over a recent investigative report on the recall of defective mainland-made subway train carriages used in Singapore.

Founded by veteran local journalist Ng Hiu-tung last year, FactWire, a news agency, said in a press release on Wednesday that it had received an anonymous warning that someone would create trouble for the agency because of the report on the recall of defective trains by Singapore’s transport operator, SMRT Corporation.

The report in early July, which was later confirmed by the Singaporean authorities, disclosed that 26 subway trains found to have cracks in their bodies and key structural components were sent back to their maker in Qingdao for repairs. The trains were made by CSR Qingdao Sifang (now CRRC Qingdao Sifang) in a joint venture with Kawasaki Heavy Industries.

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The report caused a stir in Hong Kong because the same mainland manufacturer was responsible for making nine trains for the express rail link from Hong Kong to Guangzhou and 93 eight-car trains for the MTR’s urban lines after a “rigorous” tendering process in March 2012 and July last year respectively.

The agency said that at about noon on July 26, a man stopped outside its office and counted the number of closed-circuit television cameras it had installed.

An unknown mark was also found outside the office.

The agency immediately reminded its reporters to exercise vigilance for their personal safety. It said it would not speculate on the identity of the party behind the harassment.

The incident prompted the agency to step up security and the protection of all journalistic information under its custody.

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It also disrupted the organisation’s normal reporting and editorial routines for a month.

On Wednesday, the agency backed its investigation and report on the train issue.

“The [recall] incident is of serious public interest and concerns many Hong Kong people. The investigation is relevant to Hong Kong people because MTR, of which the Hong Kong government holds a majority stake, has been buying many trains and component parts from the same mainland Chinese manufacturers that produced the cracked SMRT train carriages.”

Hong Kong Journalists Association chairwoman Sham Yee-lan said the incident had intimidated the agency’s workers and made the public concerned about whether there were people trying to stop its work.

She urged the perpetrators to stop their acts and for police to step in.