The Malaysian journalist who waded inadvertently into a media controversy in Hong Kong has pledged to uphold press freedom, at a march sparked by the knifing of a former chief editor at his new workplace, Ming Pao.
Chong Tien Siong, the new principal executive editor of the Chinese-language newspaper, also spoke up against inflicting violence on journalists.
"We will definitely support press freedom 100 per cent. Press freedom is our core value," he said yesterday.
Chong lent his support at the rally after arriving in the city on Saturday. It was his first public appearance in Hong Kong, and also the first time he had spoken publicly since Kevin Lau Chun-to was removed as Ming Pao chief editor. Chong will assume his new position today.
On Wednesday, Lau was attacked by a chopper-wielding assailant as he got out of his car near a Sai Wan Ho restaurant. The attack left his internal organs exposed and damaged crucial nerves in his legs.
"I am touched and moved by the large turnout for the protest," Chong said. "Hong Kong is a city of law and order, so no verbal or physical violence should be tolerated, not to mention the chopping, slashing or killing of people.
"We hope the police will catch the culprit as soon as possible. We also hope Mr Lau Chun-to will recover soon."
Joining the Malaysian newsman at the march was chief editor cum editorial director Cheung Kin-bor and editorial director Lui Ka-ming.
Cheung said: "I will personally bear the whole burden of press freedom. I pledge that this is something that will not change."
The two met for the first time in a two-hour lunch. "[Chong] possesses two traits that makes me relieved," Cheung said. "He is a moderate and is tolerant of differing views. He will enhance understanding with the various levels of Ming Pao editorial staff in the coming week."
Chong is due to meet the deputy chief editor, department heads and all other editorial staff.
The protest started with a voice recording from Lau's wife and 20-year journalist, Vivien Chan Pik-kwan.
"Freedom of the press is not a privilege for those media workers. A society needs to be transparent and we all have the right to know," she said in the clip, played in her absence.
Among the crowds were pro-establishment lawmakers Felix Chung Kwok-pan of the Liberal Party, Ann Chiang Lai-wan of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, and Michael Tien Puk-sun of the New People's Party.
Law Wing-chung, who worked at Ming Pao before becoming political assistant to the financial secretary, was the only political appointee present.
Former chief justice Andrew Li Kwok-nang said he was just passing by, but urged locals to defend press freedom. "The [Lau] incident is worrying," Li told reporters. "Hongkongers should strive to uphold core values."
Lew Mon-hung, a former close ally of Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying, said: "We will die in silence if we do not explode in silence."
Political commentator Albert Cheng King-hon, who as a Commercial Radio host was stabbed in 1998, believed the turnout would put pressure on the police.
Film director Gordon Chan Ka-sheung marched with other members of the Film Directors' Guild. "Journalists are at the forefront of this fight to defend press freedom … that's why I feel we must be here today, to let all journalists know they are not alone."