Hong Kong is a safe city with a low crime rate where freedom of speech is taken seriously. So it came as a shock that anti-reclamation campaigner Winston Chu Ka-sun has been subject to threats against the safety of himself and his family. The threats, according to the 63-year-old lawyer, are so vicious that he has decided to bow out of the campaign and leave Hong Kong with his 86-year-old mother. Over the past eight years, as chairman of the Society for the Protection of the Harbour, Mr Chu has succeeded through sheer determination in focusing public attention on the encroaching threat to our beloved harbour from reclamation. While he may come across as a nuisance to officials and others who have a stake in reclamation, Mr Chu has always pursued his objectives within the confines of the law. His achievement is a glowing example of how a civic-minded citizen in pluralistic Hong Kong can pursue his beliefs and serve the community. His is a shining example of civil society in action. The threat made against Mr Chu must therefore be condemned in the strongest possible terms. This is not just because any attempt to use criminal means to stifle free speech is wrong, but also because such actions might deter people from advancing their causes through peaceful means. Hong Kong would be poorer as a community if conscientious citizens had to fear for their personal safety for exercising the rights and freedoms guaranteed by the Basic Law. Regrettably, the threats against Mr Chu remind us of previous cases where prominent people appeared to have been attacked for being outspoken. In 1996, veteran journalist Leung Tin-wai, then editor of a magazine, was savagely attacked by two assailants who chopped off his left forearm. It was believed the attack had to do with the magazine's expose of the activities of triad kings, although Leung said he did not know why he was targeted. In 1998, popular radio talk-show host Albert Cheng King-hon suffered deep wounds to his legs when he was knifed by two men. No suspects were ever caught in connection with the attack on Leung. While some arrests were made over the Cheng case, there was no prosecution. The commissioner of police has promised a thorough investigation into the threats against Mr Chu. However, in view of what happened to the probes into the attacks against Leung and Cheng, the chances of the Chu case being cracked appear low. Still, we hope the police will spare no efforts to apprehend the culprit to safeguard Hong Kong's reputation as a place where everyone can speak his mind freely without fear of retribution. No one who does nothing more than exercise his right to say no to the authorities should be allowed to be hounded out of Hong Kong by shady characters.