Former newspaper editor fights for life after cleaver attack

Kevin Lau was recently fired from Hong Kong’s Chinese language daily

Pro-democracy activists hold signs with an image of former chief editor of ‘Ming Pao’ Kevin Lau  as they attend a candlelight vigil to urge the police to solve the stabbing incident involving Lau. Photograph: Lam Yik Fei/Getty Images

Pro-democracy activists hold signs with an image of former chief editor of ‘Ming Pao’ Kevin Lau as they attend a candlelight vigil to urge the police to solve the stabbing incident involving Lau. Photograph: Lam Yik Fei/Getty Images

Thu, Feb 27, 2014, 01:00

Kevin Lau, former chief editor of Hong Kong

’s Ming Pao , a Chinese-language daily known for its critical reporting, was fighting for his life last night after being slashed in a cleaver attack that has raised fears among journalists about the erosion of media freedoms in the territory.

Mr Lau became a controversial figure after he was fired as chief editor of Ming Pao last month, prompting a debate over censorship at what was once one of the former Crown colony’s most outspoken newspapers.

A man in a motorcycle helmet attacked Lau in a residential area yesterday morning, slashing him in the back several times with a cleaver. The assailant took off on a motorcycle with an accomplice.

The motive for the attack was unclear, although the use of a chopper is a trademark of the triad organised crime gangs.


Hong Kong media
Police said they had so far no clues as to who might have carried out the attack.

After Lau was fired in January he took up other duties at the paper and was replaced by Chong Tien-siong, the former chief editor of Malaysia’s Nanyang Siang Pau , who was seen as being much more pro-establishment and pro-Beijing.

While mainland China’s media is tightly controlled by the Communist Party, the Hong Kong media has always enjoyed a high degree of independence, even since the territory reverted back to Beijing in 1997.

A freewheeling capitalist enclave, Hong Kong enjoys freedom guaranteed under the territory’s mini-constitution, known as the Basic Law.


Press freedom
Beijing has agreed in principle for the city to hold direct elections in 2017, but no specific rules have yet been set on whether open nominations for candidates will be allowed, and the Communist Party in Beijing has resisted public pressure for full democracy.

However, there is a belief the Beijing government is trying to encroach on press freedom in Hong Kong and last Sunday, 6,000 journalists marched to Hong Kong’s government headquarters to demand the city’s leaders do more to ensure press freedom.

The Hong Kong Journalists Association condemned the assault. “The attackers must be brought to justice as quickly as possible to allay public fears,” it said in a statement.

Hong Kong chief executive CY Leung expressed his “concern” and “outrage”.

“Hong Kong is a society ruled by law, and we will not allow this kind of violence,” he said in a statement.

Phyllis Tsang of the Ming Pao Staff Concern Group, told the South China Morning Post she hoped the police could swiftly prosecute the culprit.

“This attack will damage perceptions of Hong Kong as a safe city and its reputation for media freedoms,” she said.