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    Freedom of speech under fire? Hong Kong Next Media attacked

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    A string of attacks targeting pro-democratic news distributor Next Media Group has not slowed production, nor intimidated owner, Jimmy Lai.

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    At 12:30 a.m. on June 30th an Apple Daily distribution center fell under attack when a group of men wearing surgical face masks descended on employees. A man carrying a meat cleaver threatened workers, while his two accomplices doused the papers in a flammable liquid. Shortly after setting the papers on fire, the three men escaped in their car that had fake license plates. 26,000 newspapers were destroyed before authorities were able to put out the flames. Every paper was reprinted and ready for redistribution less than three hours after the attack.

    A day earlier, during the early hours of June 29, Hong Kong's Next Media Offices experienced a drive-by knife-throwing. At around 5 a.m., an unidentified individual hurled a meat cleaver at the front gate of the Next Media building from a four-door sedan. Authorities have been reviewing security footage of the attack but have yet to announce a potential suspect.

    On June 27, newspaper distributors were under attack once again when two masked men with large knives approached two workers.

    The men told the workers, "Get lost now or I'll chop you."

    The workers called their supervisor, who alerted police about the bizarre encounter. During this time, the masked assailants set the Apple Daily newspapers inside the delivery truck on fire and sped away. Firefighters on the scene found a lighter inside the truck after extinguishing the flames. No casualties were reported and police are on the lookout for two men around the age of 30. Authorities plan to treat the case as criminal intimidation and larson.

    The main target of these attacks, Jimmy Lai, experienced a scare earlier this month when a car rammed into the front gate of his house in Mong Kok, Hong Kong. The driver left an axe and knife at the scene of the crime.

    The attacks have been increasing in frequency as the annual pro-democracy rally, and anniversary of Hong Kong's handover to China, approaches on July 1st. It is believed that Lai's support of the Occupy Central movement and open criticism of the PRC government, have made him and his publications a high-profile target for those backing the Chinese government.