Even if the people who attacked Ming Pao former chief editor Kevin Lau Chun-to are caught, the mastermind behind the plot may never be revealed.
That’s the warning from two high-profile victims of similar attacks – Shih Wing-ching, the founder of free newspaper AM730, and lawmaker Albert Ho Chun-yan – who recalled their first-hand experiences of Hong Kong’s violent underbelly on Commercial Radio this morning.
Lau remains in a critical condition in hospital after suffering a knife attack on his back and legs on the Sai Wan Ho waterfront on Wednesday. Police are searching for the two men who carried out the attack before escaping on a motorbike. But even if they are found, the person they were working for may escape justice, if the experience of Ho is anything to go by.
The attackers who beat up Democrat Ho in a restaurant in 2006 were caught and jailed, but Ho believes he will never know who ordered the attack.
People who carried out such attacks were paid such large sums of money that they would never spill the beans on their bosses, said Ho.
Many suspected the attack was linked to a dispute Ho was having with a casino, but this was never proven.
Shih meanwhile, said that the two men, armed with hammers, who tried to attack him last July had never been found.
Shih, who is also the co-founder of Centaline Property Agency, had been forced to stop his car when a vehicle pulled up in front of him. Two men jumped out and approached before smashing his windscreen.
"They hit the glass with the hammers five or six times, breaking the glass ... I got the impression that they wanted to drag me out of the car and harm me," recalled Shih.
He managed to reverse his car away and escape. No arrests have been made.
"It’s difficult to make arrests because I don’t know who is after me,” said Shih.
At the time, Shih had not thought the attack was linked to press freedom.
However, mainland-backed firms started pulling ads from the paper last November in an action Shih has previously said was due to its editorial stance. It’s estimated the action will cause the paper losses of HK$10 million a year.
In terms of this week’s chopping attack on Lau, Shih did not believe it was linked to recent managerial changes at the Chinese newspaper – Lau was recently removed from his post as chief editor, prompting high-profile protests by staff – but he did believe that it was Lau’s work as editor that prompted the attack.
Under Lau the paper had investigated the mysterious death of a mainland dissident, and participated in an investigation by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists into offshore bank accounts held by members of the Chinese elite.
Phyllis Tsang of the Ming Pao Staff Concern Group said there would be an anti-violence protest this Sunday, but the route is yet to be confirmed. Street stalls will be set up in Causeway Bay today collecting signatures for a petition denouncing violence in support of press freedom.
Lau told colleagues to persevere when they visited him in hospital last night, according to Tsang.