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Hongkong 6 April 2004

Triad gangs could be involved in threats against Albert Cheng

Political commentator Albert Cheng, a critic of the Beijing government, has said rich families with links to the triads and with an interest in a rapprochement with Beijing could be behind the threats he has been receiving.

But Cheng said these families would have acted on their own initiative, without Beijing’s approval. "Officials would never have done that," he said.

"This attack was aimed at showing me they know where I am and that they can have me whenever they want," Cheng said, referring to the recent vandalising of a small company in which he owns shares. "It’s a message asking me to shut up," he said.

Cheng is thinking more than ever of ending his political programme on a local radio station.

Reporters Without Borders today voiced concern about death threats against leading Hong Kong columnist and political critic Albert Cheng King-hon and called on the special region’s chief executive, Tung Chee Hwa, to order a thorough investigation.

"If threats against journalists who criticise politicians or government measures succeed in silencing the critics, then editorial independence and free expression are in danger in Hong Kong," the organisation said.

Cheng has been receiving threats almost every day for the past two months because of his criticism of the government’s pro-Beijing reforms. Then the premises of one of his companies was attacked on 31 March.

Cheng is thinking of suspending his political programme "Teacup in a Storm" on the Commercial Radio station but he would continue to be a columnist for the daily South China Morning Post.

In the attack on one of his companies, intruders demanded to speak to Cheng. Although he was absent, they threw buckets of red paint on the walls, furniture and other objects in the room.

"These people knew I own shares in this company," Cheng said. "They were prepared. I can tell you that I am afraid. My family is even more afraid. It is not the first time that this has happened."

Cheng was already attacked on 19 August 1998, when he received six deep knife wounds from two assailants. He survived despite losing a lot of blood before help arrived. No arrest was made.

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