Thousands from across the political spectrum rallied yesterday in support of press freedom and to condemn the attack last week on former Ming Pao chief editor Kevin Lau Chun-to.
A recording by Lau, who is recovering from chop wounds that left him close to death, for journalists to stand fearless and safeguard media freedom was broadcast along the route of the march from the Tamar government headquarters to police headquarters in Wan Chai.
"Violence is meant to intimidate. If we are frightened into submission, we will lose our freedom," said Lau, who recorded the message from his bed in Eastern Hospital.
Watch: Thousands protest against attack on Kevin Lau, calling for press freedom
The Journalists Association said 13,000 took part. Police put the figure at 8,600. The rally, which included a silent vigil to condemn violence, was the second related to fears about press freedom in two weeks.
There was a rare show of political unity as lawmakers from various pan-democratic groups marched alongside legislators from the Beijing-friendly camp.
Christopher Chung Shu-kun, of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, signed the main banner stating "They Can't Kill Us All". In January he voted against a Legco motion to safeguard editorial independence.
Association chairwoman Sham Yee-lan pledged that media workers would continue to stand firm in the face of threats.
"Violence will only make our voice louder," she said.
Also taking part was Ming Pao's new chief editor, Cheung Kin-bor, and Chong Tien Siong, new principal executive editor. Singer Wong Yiu-ming and actress Sheren Tang Shui-man were among showbiz stars.
The rally was organised by the Press Coalition Against Violence, which consists of five industry organisations.
A government spokesman said the administration attached great importance to press freedom and freedom of speech.
Lau was chopped in the back and legs on Wednesday as he got out of his car near a restaurant in Sai Wan Ho. A friend said his condition had improved and he was able to eat solid food.
Li Kin-fai, regional police commander of Hong Kong Island, appealed to the public to contact them with any information about the case.
Police are checking CCTV footage at border checkpoints to see if one of the two suspects had fled to the mainland.
Kevin Lau's statement
A Chinese couplet on a poster from my days at the University of Hong Kong came to mind when I was lying in bed after surgery. It read: "A pen in hand … to tell the truth; for freedom is without fear or favour."
The news media will only be truly inspiring when its practitioners persist in upholding truth and justice. And only those without fear or favour can truly be free.
Violence is meant to intimidate. If we are frightened into submission, we will lose our freedom. We journalists must stand fearless. We must insist that justice be served. We must strive to tell the truth without fear or favour
Freedom is not given. Freedom is not free. We all have to earn it and guard it.