York Regional Police say there hasn’t been a case of a specific newspaper being targeted for prolonged vandalism in recent years on the scale The Epoch Times was, with the publication subjected to a months-long sabotage campaign that prevented readers from having access to copies of the newspaper.
“It definitely looked like in this particular case that the suspect, and now the accused, was specifically targeting The Epoch Times newspaper boxes,” said Constable Andy Pattenden, a spokesperson for York Regional Police.
York Regional Police was the second police force in the Toronto area that arrested Fabio Guerrieri in relation to the vandalism and theft of Epoch Times newspapers. He was first arrested by Toronto Police Service on Aug. 26 close to an Epoch Times newspaper box near Yonge Street and Finch Avenue after he was observed stealing papers from the box. He was charged with mischief over $5,000.
York police arrested Guerrieri on Sept. 19, the same day that he made a court appearance for the charges laid by Toronto police. York police have charged him with mischief under $5,000 in relation to alleged vandalism of Epoch Times property at Pacific Mall. His court appearance related to the latest charge is scheduled for Oct. 25.
For months dating back to the beginning of spring, over 70 Epoch Times newspaper boxes were the target of severe vandalism, including damage to the boxes, continuous theft of all newspapers, garbage dumped inside the boxes, and feces smeared on the inside and outside.
“The investigation was months long by both the Toronto Police and the York Regional Police,” said Constable Michael Machin, who was in charge of investigating the case for York police.
As previously reported by The Epoch Times, the staff of the media company helped in the investigation by setting up surveillance to record the perpetrator in action. The videos show the accused approaching boxes in different locations in the Toronto area, breaking the support inside that holds the display paper, and removing all the papers. Staff also observed that the accused didn’t walk in a direct path from one box to another, instead zigzagging and backtracking before proceeding to the next box, suggesting that he had training to avoid surveillance.
Mr. Xu, an Epoch Times reader who preferred to keep his first name private, says he spotted Guerrieri allegedly attempting to put something inside an Epoch Times box at Pacific Mall on Aug. 4. Xu, who was aware of the ongoing vandalism, shouted “hey” to try to stop him, after which Guerrieri got on his bike and rode away. Xu says as Guerrieri rode through the mall parking lot toward the box and saw Xu again, he yelled, “I’m going to kill you.” Guerrieri then took off and a short time later, when he saw Xu in the parking lot once more, he threw feces at Xu. Xu says he became scared and reported the incident to York Regional Police.
The Epoch Times, an independent news organization established in 2000, has been a target of vandalism in different parts of the world since its early days. The paper is general interest but maintains a special focus on issues related to China, such as the suppression of human rights by the Chinese communist regime and its attempts to influence and infiltrate other countries.
Recently in New York, a number of newspaper boxes have been vandalized, with the papers inside one of them even set on fire on Aug. 19. In another incident in the city in May, a man was arrested after he allegedly threatened a woman with a knife who tried to stop him from throwing away papers that he took from an Epoch Times box. There have been several other cases of criminal acts against The Epoch Times around the world, including an incident in 2006 where four unidentified men broke into the company’s offices in Hong Kong and damaged property, including wrecking office machines and computers.
Sheng Xue, a Chinese-born Canadian author based in the Toronto area, says the “criminal acts” against The Epoch Times should be examined based on the “evidence, logic, and facts.”
“[The vandalism] is aimed at preventing readership of The Epoch Times,” she says. “Are you afraid of the truth that The Epoch Times reports?”
She adds that there are “behind-the-scenes” forces that don’t want people reading The Epoch Times.
“It’s very simple,” Sheng says. “It’s the Chinese Communist Party [that doesn’t want people reading the newspaper].”
With reporting by Becky Zhou and April Zhu