All nine suspects arrested in Hong Kong in connection with the brutal attack on Ming Pao's ex-chief editor have been freed on bail, police said yesterday.
The eight male suspects all belonged to the same triad society and included a suspected faction leader, according to a police source. The source had no comment on whether this man was the person who allegedly paid two hitmen HK$1 million each to carry out the February 26 attack.
The source said clothes seized as evidence were being examined to see if they had been worn by the hitmen when they struck in Sai Wan Ho, riding up to Kevin Lau Chun-to on a motorcycle before the pillion rider set on him with a meat cleaver. The insider said there had been no trace of the weapon or helmets.
Watch: Kevin Lau calls on government to restore confidence in the rule of law
The eight men, aged 30 to 57, and a 37-year-old woman were rounded up in a series of raids across the city on Wednesday and Thursday following the capture of the two suspected hitmen on the mainland on Sunday.
The nine were understood to have been identified after officers checked security-camera tapes at the site of the attack and near Lau's home and office and saw several vehicles whose occupants appeared to be monitoring the victim's movements.
Lau, 49, was ambushed just after 10.30am as he got out of his car near a restaurant in Sai Wan Ho he frequents for breakfast.
According to a police spokeswoman, the suspects were released on bail and no one had been charged. They were told to report back to police next month.
A police officer said they were still investigating the motive for the attack, adding: "We need more time to gather evidence."
Hong Kong police are still negotiating with mainland authorities to have the two alleged hitmen, who were picked up in Dongguan, Guangdong province, transferred to the city. They are both aged 37 and reportedly belong to local triad gang Shui Fong, also known as Wo On Lok.
In the attack, crucial nerves in Lau's legs were damaged and internal organs exposed. He remains in hospital and faces a two-year fight to recover.
The vicious attack, which followed Lau's controversial removal as Ming Pao chief editor, sparked a march in support of press freedom that saw thousands take to the streets.
A spokesman for the Department of Justice said yesterday that to avoid any possible bias deputy director of public prosecutions Wesley Wong Wai-chung had been delegated to handle Lau's case and decide whether to bring any prosecution.
The decision was made, he added, as Secretary for Justice Rimsky Yuen Kwok-keung and Director of Public Prosecutions Keith Yeung Ka-hung had known Lau for years and the three were classmates when they studied law at Hong Kong University.
Watch: Thousands protest against attack on Kevin Lau, calling for press freedom