Masked men attack newspaper office

Police are hunting four assailants who strode into the offices of a radical online newspaper and destroyed its equipment yesterday.

The masked men marched into Independent Media's (In-media) ninth-floor office on Hennessy Road, Wan Chai, at around 1.20pm and smashed computers and a television before fleeing, the paper said.

Two employees present during the attack were uninjured.

'[The men] first ordered the two workers to sit aside before smashing three computers and a television with hammers. They then ran downstairs,' In-media said on its website.

The attack was condemned by lawmakers and the Hong Kong Human Rights Monitor, which said such violence was a threat to freedom of speech and the press.

In-media said that just before the incident, an unknown caller phoned to inquire about their opening hours and how to donate money to the company.

Chief Inspector Louis Tam Kan-lun of Wan Chai police said the assault lasted less than a minute.

Damon Wong Chun-pong, editor and contributing reporter of In-media - which is also an advocacy group for press freedom that was formed by volunteers who take an active role in social movements - said they did not know who might hold a grudge towards them.

The newspaper, which relies on public donations to remain independent, strives to be an alternative voice on 'the news outside the mainstream'. It had run articles on sensitive issues such as national education, washed-up plastic pellets, and the land row between New Territories villagers and the government.

Wong said their website was still running and their staff, who are mostly volunteer reporters and editors, 'would not be scared off'.

Officers searched for the four attackers - thought to be aged between 25 and 40, about 1.6 metres to 1.7 metres tall and of medium build - but no one was arrested.

'At this stage, we are still investigating the motive. Police will look into all possible clues,' said Tam.

People with any information should call 6101 0034.