Assault on Kevin Lau is tantamount to an attack on us all

PUBLISHED : Friday, 28 February, 2014, 4:20am
UPDATED : Friday, 28 February, 2014, 8:51am

The brutal attack on former Ming Pao chief editor Kevin Lau Chun-to has caused shock and outrage, not just in Hong Kong, but internationally. Freedom of speech and the press are cornerstones of our vibrant society and a physical attack on a journalist amounts to a collective injury. Coming in the wake of Lau's removal from the top editorial position at the influential newspaper and a mass protest by journalists, the vicious knifing has rightly been widely condemned in the strongest terms. Even though the motive is a matter of speculation, police have to do everything in their power to apprehend the perpetrators and those behind the affront to assure all in our city that they can speak without fear.

Lau's attackers had meticulously planned their assault; they knew his routine and inflicted the life-threatening wounds in moments. Whether the repugnant act was related to his work or was a personal matter is immaterial. With the rule of law another of society's pillars, those who feel that they have been wronged can at any time take their grievances to court - there is never cause or reason for anyone to take the law into their own hands. A chilling warning has been sent to every journalist.

There could be no more sensitive time. Hundreds of journalists and free-speech supporters worried about perceived government pressure on Hong Kong's independent media marched on the government headquarters on Sunday.

They were driven by a series of incidents, among them Lau's replacement last month by a non-local, the firing of controversial radio talk-show host Li Wei-ling and the pulling of advertising by mainland companies and international banks from pro-democracy media outlets. Ming Pao said yesterday it would review its investigative reports from the past year to help determine what could have prompted such violence.

Other prominent journalists and media organisations have been targeted. In 1996, Leung Tin-wai, then the publisher of Surprise Weekly, was attacked by two men and two years later, former legislator Albert Cheng King-hon, at the time a broadcaster, suffered the same fate. Next Media has been targeted, as was Ming Pao by a small explosive device in 2005. None of the cases was solved.

Intimidation to influence the way the media carries out its important job is intolerable. But journalists well know they are at the forefront of upholding our city's prized freedoms. They must not at any time be deterred from carrying out their duties.