Macau thugs target paper

THE newly launched newspaper Apple Daily says it fears thugs may strike again after its entire Macau consignment was dumped in the sea yesterday.

About 1,000 copies of the paper were tossed into the water by a gang that appeared at Macau's Outer Harbour wharf at 8 am, shortly after a jetfoil carrying Hong Kong newspapers arrived for distribution.

Just two hours earlier, a Giordano branch in Rua de S. Domingos was set alight. The shop chain is part-owned by the paper's founder, Jimmy Lai Chee-ying.

Witnesses said the blaze had spread from a motorcycle parked outside the store.

At the pier, a newspaper vendor said a group of 20 men had asked him to point out the pile of Apple Dailies before telling all the vendors to leave.

'The gang dumped the bundles of Apple Daily into the sea. They were quite polite. I saw no arms but many of them were carrying mobile phones,' he said.

Apple Daily editor-in-chief Loh Chan said he was worried the gang might strike again.

'We have no idea who is responsible. All we know is that a gang of people threw about 1,000 copies of Apple Daily into the water,' he said. 'We don't want to speculate on whether this is about the owner or about the price of the paper. We are still trying to understand why this has happened.' The Apple Daily has effectively set its price at $2, compared with $5 for other newspapers.

Mr Loh said the paper had asked its distributor to provide security for the shipments.

An article in Tuesday's Apple Daily reported that a triad gang dominated black-market cigarette sales in the enclave.

It said the triads were also trying to control the supply to casinos.

The paper has been plagued by distribution difficulties, even though it has offered to pay distributors well above the going rate.

Only one distributor, Dak Keung, was willing to take it on and has been given police protection after receiving death threats, sources said.

A second distributor pulled out of an agreement to circulate the newspaper to convenience stores the day after the June 20 launch.