Former top judge Andrew Li calls for vigilance on free speech in wake of Kevin Lau attack

Former top judge cites need to cherish freedoms as two more arrested for assault on Kevin Lau

PUBLISHED : Friday, 14 March, 2014, 4:32am
UPDATED : Friday, 14 March, 2014, 12:55pm

The city needs to be highly vigilant in protecting its core values of freedom of speech and the media, a former top judge said yesterday as two more Hongkongers were arrested over a brutal attack on former Ming Pao chief editor Kevin Lau Chun-to.

Retired chief justice Andrew Li Kwok-nang was commenting on the February 26 incident, a day after Commissioner of Police Andy Tsang Wai-hung said there was no "direct evidence" linking it to Lau's journalistic work.

"[Lau's case] has caused Hongkongers to become extremely worried about freedom of speech. So I think each of us needs to be highly vigilant in protecting our freedoms," Li told reporters at the University of Hong Kong yesterday.

Earlier, in a speech, he said: "Our cherished freedoms include … freedom of speech and freedom of the press. Vigilance must be exercised at all times by all of us to ensure that any attempt to undermine our freedoms is overcome."

Watch: Former Ming Pao editor Kevin Lau calls on government to restore confidence in the rule of law

Early yesterday, the Hong Kong Island regional crime squad arrested a man, 55, and a woman, 37, in connection with the attack, bringing the total number of arrests to 11.

Police believed the pair's involvement spanned before and after Lau was set on by a motorcycle pillion rider in Sai Wan Ho.

Another man, aged 55, who was arrested on Wednesday, was last night released on bail.

Tsang faces a call from a group of Lau's friends to clarify Wednesday's comments about the ex-chief editor's work not being a motive.

"Technically, there is nothing wrong with what Tsang said … since all the suspects arrested so far are [said to be] involved only in the execution of the crime," the group's spokesman Eric Cheung Tat-ming said. "[But] obviously their motives would have nothing to do with press freedom; they are only hired hitmen."

For now, Lau says he is thankful just to be able to sit in a chair. "On the third day after I was out of intensive care, all the tubes attached to me were removed and I regained the liberty to move my hands freely," Lau wrote from hospital in his fourth article, carried in Ming Pao.

"I immediately told the doctor that I would like to leave the hospital bed to sit on a sofa or wheelchair to get a taste of how it felt to sit up straight.

"I believe this is very important for me in order to learn how to walk again in the future."

The next day, staff at Pamela Youde Nethersole Eastern Hospital used a patient lift to hoist him onto a sofa, he wrote.

"Gradually, I felt how wonderful it was to sit upright without any cushion or external support at my back, to sit independently, on my own," Lau says.

"I began to realise what a joy it was for one to sit in a chair whenever one wants …In the past, I could always sit this way. Why had I never felt grateful before?"

Apart from press freedom, the former chief justice also spoke on the idea of public nomination for the 2017 chief executive poll.

"The Hong Kong courts have adopted and will continue to adopt common law principles in interpreting the Basic Law," Li said.

He said he did not want to see Beijing interpreting the mini-constitution as a way to override court decisions. "Beijing has the right to interpret the Basic Law, but only on very special occasions," he added.