Baseball Bat Attack on Hong Kong Reporter Draws State Department Condemnation

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Protesters occupy the arrival hall of the Hong Kong International Airport during a demonstration on August 12, 2019. A reporter from the Hong Kong Epoch Times, an international publication critical of the Chinese Communist Party, was attacked by a man with a baseball bat after leaving her apartment on May 11.
Protesters occupy the arrival hall of the Hong Kong International Airport during a demonstration on August 12, 2019. A reporter from the Hong Kong Epoch Times, an international publication critical of the Chinese Communist Party, was attacked by a man with a baseball bat after leaving her apartment on May 11. (Image: Anthony Kwan/Getty Images)

A reporter for a Hong Kong newspaper critical of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) was assaulted with a baseball bat during broad daylight on May 11 in an escalating pattern of intimidation and harassment against the publication by thugs affiliated with the mainland regime. The victim is also President of a Hong Kong association for a spiritual practice banned and persecuted in mainland China since July of 1999. 

According to reports, reporter for the Hong Kong office of the Chinese-language version of Epoch Times, Dajiyuan, Sarah Liang, was ambushed outside of her apartment complex in the early afternoon of May 11 by an assailant wielding what is described as a “softball bat.”

Liang says she was hit approximately ten times across both legs before the assailant escaped in a black Mercedes. Photos and video show one of Liang’s legs was heavily bruised and swollen. She was taken to hospital for treatment. 

Epoch Times says a witness, who is only identified by the surname Li, saw the attack after leaving a nearby restaurant and hearing a woman scream for help. Li says the assailant was large and estimated him to be in his 40s. 

The witness speculated the attack, which he decried as brutal and inhumane, was meant to send a message to Epoch Times and said he was willing to testify in court if the perpetrator was arrested by police. 

In speaking with media outside the hospital, Liang, who said she believes the attack was planned, claims she was rushed by another assailant a few days earlier on May 8 at the same location. She said in the May 8 incident the man had to abort the assault because his weapon fell out of his clothes as he was charging towards her to attack. 

Liang, who is also President of the Hong Kong Falun Dafa Association, drew publicity at the end of April after Epoch Times reported an April 27 incident, where Liang alleges she was followed by a middle-aged man wearing glasses and a headset after leaving the MTR Prince Edward transit station to conduct an interview at a pro-democracy store in the city. 

She said she noticed the man and was suspicious, so she circled the block a few times to see what he would do. Liang said the man continued to follow her. He finally ran off when she turned in the middle of the street and challenged him as to whether he was a reporter for Ta Kung Pao, a Communist Party-controlled paper chaired by Jiang Zaizhong, a former Xinhua executive.

Posturing by communist media

Ta Kung Pao recently published propaganda articles calling for the forcible closure of pro-democracy paper Apple Daily, and a string of articles between April 20 and 29 slandering the spiritual practice of Falun Gong as an “evil cult,” and calling for the ongoing persecution of Falun Gong in China to be enacted in Hong Kong.

Epoch Times noted similarities between the paper’s posture and how state-backed publications in mainland China used a similar method to foreshadow their intentions and stir public sentiment before Jiang launched his state-wide assault against Falun Gong nearly 22 years ago.

Liang also said she encountered a suspicious person posing as a delivery man on April 24 who visited her apartment claiming he was dropping off a large parcel from a foreign friend. Liang said she was not expecting any parcels and the man left when she started to question him. There was no parcel to be found.

Falun Gong is a peaceful qigong meditation practice, based on the principles of Truthfulness-Compassion-Tolerance. Its following quickly grew to as large as 100 million when it was taught between 1992 and 1999 in mainland China by its founder, Li Hongzhi. On July 20, 1999, at-the-time General Secretary of the Chinese Commnunist Party, Jiang Zemin, feeling the practice’s popularity was a threat to both his political legacy and power, used his position to launch a nationwide persecution against the practice. 

Although the persecution has persisted to this day and Jiang and his faction within the CCP have committed crimes as egregious as live organ harvesting, it has never extended beyond mainland borders into Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan, or any other location on the planet. Current President Xi Jinping has also shown an unwillingness to continue or exacerbate the persecution within the portion of the Communist Party his faction controls. 

In a May 3 Press Release, in her capacity as President of the Hong Kong Falun Dafa Association, Liang called on the CCP-backed publication to issue a retraction, “Ta Kung Pao has taken a wrong position by attempting to direct the Hong Kong government to outlaw Falun Gong. Once Hong Kong completely loses freedom of speech and press freedom, Hong Kong will cease to be Hong Kong. Severe losses to Hong Kong and Hong Kongers will follow.”

“Again, we demand Ta Kung Pao retract the eight articles immediately and issue a public apology to the Hong Kong Falun Dafa Association. We reserve the rights to pursue legal means to restore our reputation,” the Release stated.

International condemnation

Attacks on the Hong Kong Epoch Times have not been limited only to a single reporter. Early in the morning of April 12, four masked men wielding sledgehammers stormed Epoch Times’ Hong Kong print facilities and destroyed printing equipment. CCTV video from the premises shows the men smashing a printing press, several computers, and various other items before fleeing.

The attack on the production facility was not the first. In April of 2019 during the now-famous Hong Kong anti-CCP protests, thugs broke into the shop and poured accelerants on paper and a printing press, causing a fire, which was quickly extinguished by the facility’s sprinkler system and nearby employees.

In a statement, Epoch Times called on the international community to condemn what they call the “Chinese Communist Party’s attempts to silence The Epoch Times and end press freedom in Hong Kong.”

“The actions against The Epoch Times are part of a campaign of intimidation, violent attacks, illegal arrests, and stigmatization by CCP officials and in CCP-controlled media directed against the free press in Hong Kong.”

The publication vowed to “not back down” and “continue to report truthfully and to serve the best interests of Hong Kong.”

The U.S. Department of State told Epoch Times directly that “The United States condemns the recent attack committed against an Epoch Times journalist,” adding “Attacks against journalists are unacceptable and cannot be tolerated. We urge the authorities to complete a full investigation of this incident as well as the recent attack on the Epoch Times’ Hong Kong printing facilities.”

Program Coordinator for the Committee to Protect Journalists, Steven Butler, told Epoch Times that Hong Kong police cannot allow the attack to go unanswered, while a spokesperson for PEN America, a non-profit focusing on literature and human rights, told ET “There is no more dangerous tactic of silencing the free press than of physically assaulting a journalist.”

  • Neil lives in Canada and writes about society and politics.