Kevin Lau, the former chief editor of Ming Pao, was stabbed and slashed six times in the back and across both legs by two attackers in Hong Kong on Feb. 26. He is now in the hospital and is no longer in critical condition, though doctors said that full recovery of the nerve damage to his legs will take over two years, he wrote in an article in Ming Pao.
Two 37-year-old men were arrested on March 9 in Dongguan City, Guangdong Province, which stands just across from Hong Kong on the Chinese mainland. The Hong Kong commissioner of police Tsang Wai-hung announced the news to reporters in Hong Kong recently.
Tsang indicated that the two men were hired for the attack, and they have “triad backgrounds.” Triads are organized criminal gangs operating in and around China.
Another seven men between 30 years of age and 57 years of age were arrested in Hong Kong on March 12, on suspicion of assisting the assailants before and after the attack. The police declined to release the identities of the men.
All nine suspects were residents of Hong Kong, police said.
It is still unclear whether the mastermind of the attack is among them, or whether that individual had political ties with the communist regime on the mainland. Tsang said that more arrests were possible.
Tsang said that police are not excluding the consideration of any motive for the attack. He said that currently there is no evidence of a link between the attack and Lau’s journalistic work, although that is the widely held assumption among civil groups in Hong Kong.
After Tsang’s report, in fact, both Lau and the Hong Kong media community loudly questioned the statement that there was “no evidence” connecting the attack to Lau’s work.
“I’m puzzled with the police commissioner’s claim,” Lau said in an announcement published in Ming Pao on March 12. “I hope the police impartially ascertain the identity of the mastermind and their motivation soon.”
Lau’s family has no debts or personal grudges, he said, and he has long held that the attack is related to his work at Ming Pao. He was recently removed from his position there while an editor who was more willing to toe the Communist Party line was installed.
The owner of Ming Pao is Tan Sri Datuk Sir Hiew-king Tiong, a Malaysian billionaire with extensive business dealings in China.
Lau’s friends in the media community have established a Kevin Lau Concern Group, calling for people to find out the truth behind the attack.
Lau’s abrupt dismissal as chief editor at Ming Pao in early January this year raised noisy protests from Hong Kong journalists, who assumed that behind the move was pressure from the Chinese Communist Party to further clamp down on press freedoms in Hong Kong. The suspicion is widespread, though unconfirmed, that individuals in the Chinese communist system sought to deliver Lau a brutal lesson for his work at Ming Pao, which is understood to have been not as amenable to the Party line as hoped for by its propagandists.
“I hope to gather all the support from different groups in society to urge the police to solve the case soon, allowing journalists to regain confidence to the rule of law,” Lau said in a short video recently, taken from his hospital bed. “Let’s make a lasting contribution to the rule of law, opposing violence, and protecting press freedom.”