Police early this morning arrested two more suspects - a 55-year-old man and 37-year-old woman - in connection with the brutal attack on former Ming Pao chief Kevin Lau Chun-to.
The new arrests take the total number of people held to 11, after police last night announced nine others had been apprehended.
The Police Public Relations Bureau said it had no information on where the two latest suspects were arrested or the degree of their involvement in Lau's attack. All they would say is that investigations by the Regional Crime Unit of Hong Kong Island are underway.
A source close to Guangdong's Public Security Bureau said two out of the nine suspects had been arrested on Sunday and were members of local triad gang Shui Fong, also known as Wo On Lok. The source said the pair were each paid HK$1 million to carry out the attack.
Both suspects, aged 37, were picked up by police in Dongguan, Guangdong, after Hong Kong police sought help from mainland authorities last week. Hong Kong police were informed about the two arrests on Sunday.
The source added that the pair were told not to kill Lau and to go into hiding on the mainland for a year after the attack.
"They admitted they were each paid HK$1 million by their gang leader before the attack … The money should have been enough for them to live on the mainland for a year."
Watch: Kevin Lau calls on government to restore confidence in the rule of law
It was not known who gave the triad leader the order to "chop Lau to the degree that would leave him crippled", the source added.
Hong Kong police detained seven other men, aged 30 to 57, in raids in various parts of the city yesterday.
The latest arrests come as Lau gradually recovers in hospital following the attack which left him fighting for his life and in the week the former editor talked for the first time about the ambush in broad daylight. In an article published in Ming Pao he wrote that he was determined to learn to walk again.
A concern group formed by friends of Lau, meanwhile, urged Police Commissioner Andy Tsang Wai-hung to clarify his remark yesterday on "no direct evidence to tie it [the attack on Lau] to journalistic work".
Speaking at a radio interview this morning, the concern group's spokesman and law scholar Eric Cheung Tat-ming said what Tsang said was technically correct but might invite different interpretations.
"Technically, there's nothing wrong with what Tsang said...since all the suspects arrested so far involved only in the execution," Cheung said.
"It is apparent that their motives would have nothing to do with press freedom; they are only hired hitmen."
Lau's wife, Vivien Chan Pik-kwan, disagreed.
"My family doesn't have money problems, affairs or personal grudges," she said. "We strongly believe the attack was linked to his journalistic work."
And Lau released a statement last night urging the police to clarify what Tsang meant when he said there was nothing to tie the attack directly to his work, which he said was bewildering.
The Journalists Association said the remarks might mislead people into believing the attack was related to a personal issue.
When it comes to the motive, Cheung said the court in many cases such as conspiracy to defraud often could not rely on any direct evidence but instead make judgement based on facts available.
Cheung said Lau had always believed his attack was because of his journalistic works and that he was confused by what Tsang had said after watching the live broadcast of the press conference yesterday, which is why Lau issued a statement last night calling on Tsang to make further clarifications.
"I hope at least one way Tsang can make the clarification is to say there is no evidence so far showing [the attack] had anything to do with personal grudge."
Police commissioner Andy Tsang Wai-hung said the inquiry showed the pair left for the mainland hours after the attack.
"At the moment, we suspect the assailants were hired. They have triad backgrounds," Tsang said, adding that police had a "solid case" against the two and would soon negotiate with mainland authorities on transferring them back to Hong Kong
On Lau's recovery, Cheung said Lau was now anxious to enter the rehabilitation stage, but they at the moment could not say for sure whether Lau could walk again or how long the entire recovery would take.
In his fourth article published since the attack, Lau said it felt “so good to sit straight and upright” after spending more than two weeks on his hospital bed.
“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 says in the article published by Ming Pao today.
“I immediately told the doctor that I would like to leave the hospital bed to sit on the sofa or a wheelchair to get a taste of what it feels to sit straight and upright.”
“I believe this is very important for me to learn how to walk again in the future.”
The next day, he remembered the hospital used a crane designed to transfer patients to make his wish came true and he was wrapped in canvas before being lifted onto a sofa.
“Gradually I feel how wonderful it is to sit straight and upright without any cushion or external support at my back, to sit independently, on your own,” said Lau, who could previously at best lie at a higher angle but could never sit upright on the hospital bed.
“I began to realise it’s such a joy that one can sit on a chair whenever he wants, just like any other ordinary person.”
“In the past I could always sit this way, why did I never feel grateful before?”
But he said there was a price to pay for regaining the liberty of his left hand: to give up his access to morphine available to him at the press of a button. He needed the pain reliever when the wounds on his back gave too much pain as he turned over.
“The pain-relieving device has always been with me ever since I was put in the intensive care unit…I actually miss it but I had to say goodbye to this lovely device so that my wish to leave the hospital bed will come true sooner.”