HONG KONG – Hong Kong police are investigating after small firebombs were thrown at the home and business of a pro-democracy media magnate in an apparent intimidation attempt.
Surveillance video showed a car backing up to the gates of Jimmy Lai's home early Monday and a masked attacker getting out and throwing what looks to be a Molotov cocktail before driving off.
At about the same time, another incendiary device was thrown from a car at the entrance to his Next Media company. Its publications include the flagship pro-democracy Apple Daily, one of the city's most popular newspapers.
No one was injured and the small fires were quickly extinguished. The cars used in the attacks were later found burned out and stripped of their license plates, according to local media reports.
Lai is well known as a critic of Beijing and a staunch supporter of Hong Kong's pro-democracy movement, which occupied streets for 11 weeks last year to press their demands for free elections. He was among the thousands of protesters who were tear-gassed by police as the protest movement erupted in September.
"The goal is intimidation," said Next Media spokesman Mark Simon of Monday's attacks. He said they were a "continuation of the attacks against Mr. Lai and Next Media for its editorial position, which is at odds with the anti-democracy forces."
Lai was one of the many people arrested by police when they moved in to shut the protest camps down in December. Shortly after, he stepped down as chairman of Next, citing family and personal reasons, but remains the controlling shareholder.
The protesters wanted free elections for the semiautonomous Chinese territory's leader in 2017. Backed by Beijing, Hong Kong's government plans for all candidates to be authorized by a pro-Beijing committee.
Lai and his company have been the subject of frequent attacks and Simon said the tycoon shrugged off the latest one. In 2013 someone rammed a stolen car into the gate of his house and then left a machete on the driveway before fleeing. Last year hundreds of emails were leaked online detailing Lai's donations to local pro-democracy political parties and politicians.
In a separate early morning incident, copies of the Apple Daily were left scattered across a street after two people in a van stole some bundles of newspapers from a vendor and an undercover police officer fired four shots trying to stop them. Police wouldn't say whether it was related to the arson attacks.