Masked intruders entered a printing facility for the Epoch Times in Hong Kong on Tuesday morning and set fire to newspapers and printing equipment, the outlet reported.
The Epoch Times is a multilanguage newspaper that is distributed in countries all over the world and has been published in Chinese since 2000. The organization has been reporting on pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong, which has included coverage that could be viewed as critical of police as they cracked down on demonstrators.
At about 3:40 a.m. local time shortly after employees opened the facility and were preparing to send out the day's print edition, four men entered. They were dressed in black, wearing masks, and carrying retractable batons like those a police officer would carry.
Wielding the batons threateningly at workers and ordering them not to move, the men poured a flammable liquid on printing presses, newspapers, and on the ground before lighting a large fire and fleeing the scene.
Some speculated that the attackers were Chinese state agents or police officers seeking to punish or influence the Epoch Times in how it covers the Hong Kong protests. Only police are legally allowed to carry the retractable batons they used.
Hong Kong's ongoing protests against mainland Chinese influence have continued to escalate, most recently with violent clashes between protesters and police at Hong Kong Polytechnic University, where hundreds of protesters were holed up for days before most of them surrendered and were detained by police.
Some protesters were treated for injuries and hypothermia after being hit with power hoses, more than a thousand rounds of tear gas fired by police, and more than a thousand rubber bullets fired.
Hong Kong has district council elections set for Sunday, but there are fears that the violence in the streets could hinder them. Chief Executive Carrie Lam has called for a halt to the protests in order to allow for "just and fair" elections.