The right to express views freely is an essential part of what makes Hong Kong tick. From the discussions which take place daily on our radio talk shows to the debates in the Legislative Council, opinions are often stated in strong terms and exchanges can become heated. This serves to reflect the nature of our vibrant and diverse society. One of the factors which enables this freedom to thrive is that, however controversial the views expressed, and whatever the strength of the passions they arouse, it is rare that they lead to the person voicing them becoming a target of violence or harassment. This week's distasteful attack on the office of outspoken legislator Emily Lau Wai-hing is therefore a matter of concern. Ms Lau has been the subject of a barrage of criticism over her recent trip to Taiwan to attend a conference on the 'one country, two systems' concept. While there, she expressed the opinion that the people of Taiwan should be entitled to determine their own future. It is hardly surprising this prompted a verbal backlash in Hong Kong, although some of the criticism was more extreme than might have been expected. But on Wednesday night, matters took a sinister turn when excrement was smeared on the door of The Frontier legislator's district office in Sha Tin. This is simply unacceptable. We hope the police are successful in their efforts to bring the culprits to justice. Whatever view is taken of Ms Lau's opinions, her right to express them cannot be doubted. The same freedom is available to those who have criticised her actions. Article 27 of the Basic Law, which guarantees free speech, applies equally to all. Ms Lau, like anyone else, is entitled to expect that she can speak her mind without being subjected to criminal acts of intimidation such as that committed on Wednesday night. Unfortunately, this is not the first time she has been subjected to such an attack. And other democrats have suffered vandalism in the past, although not of this severity. The repercussions of such acts go far beyond their impact on the victims themselves. It should not be forgotten that Ms Lau, as a directly elected member of the Legislative Council since 1991, is a representative of the people. It is true that her opinions have, over the years, often been contentious. They have not always found favour with this newspaper. But in her capacity as a lawmaker, Ms Lau has to answer to her constituents. She and a party colleague won more than 63,000 votes in the 2000 election. Her electors would, no doubt, expect her to openly express her views. And if they do not approve of her conduct, there is an effective and appropriate way of responding - by withdrawing their support at the ballot box. The cowardly attack on Ms Lau's office is not just a threat to her, it is an affront to the freedoms and values we cherish, and upon which our success largely depends.