More than a month after thugs descended on legislator Albert Ho Chun-yan as he dined in a fast-food restaurant, the lawmaker shows few signs of the bruising encounter. But as investigations continue, he says the assault has left lasting scars on his personal life. 'It's pretty inconvenient,' Mr Ho said. 'I've had to change my lifestyle a bit, cut down on personal activities such as going to bookshops after work, and try to go home early. But there are still a lot of appointments every day. 'One of the police officers told me he realised only now how busy a lawmaker could be,' he said, referring to one of the burly plainclothes officers shadowing him as he goes about his duties. With his minders enforcing tight security, the Democratic Party vice-chairman insisted our interview take place in his office in Central. When his resolve weakened and, unattended, he slipped downstairs one floor for a drink in a crowded tea shop, his unease was obvious. 'In this case, the officers don't need to follow me around because I'm in the same building. It's easier for everybody,' he said. Mr Ho, who suffered serious injuries to his face and hands, remained nervous during the coffee break, warily eyeing other customers. 'I'm getting more vigilant now. I guess this is natural,' he said. The solicitor was attacked by three baton-wielding men in their 20s inside a McDonald's outlet in Central on August 20, while a fourth man acted as a lookout outside. Mr Ho's injuries were so severe that he had plastic surgery to fix a broken nose and laser surgery to repair a detached retina. Police investigators have since said the assault was related to his legal work. Although most of the wounds have healed, Mr Ho said his injuries were still painful at times. 'Look at this finger,' he said, raising his left hand. 'It's blown up because there is a crack in the bone. I didn't notice this until last week because there was pain everywhere. I'm getting most of my vision back but it's still not fully recovered. And I do find myself a bit slow after the attack as I cannot think as sharply as before.' As the lawmaker reflected on the physical pain and partial loss of freedom caused by an attack that shocked Hong Kong officials and law-enforcers, Mr Ho said his main concern was for his family. 'I haven't had nightmares so far. I sleep pretty well. But my wife doesn't. Often when I wake up in the middle of the night, she's not sleeping,' he said. 'To be honest, I have no time to be fearful. I was just so busy in the past month after the attack. Dozens of people visited me every day when I was in the hospital and there was so much to do after I was discharged. Maybe the impact of trauma and nightmares will come later. 'Of course, my wife is worried, but hasn't asked me to quit what I'm doing. She's been with me for so many years. She understands the commitment I've made to my work. My mother is also worried, but she only asked me to do less if I can,' he said. 'I'm grateful for their understanding. But there isn't much that I can do to make this up to them. I think they're hoping my [legal] clients will fire me one day and then I will be safe. But this isn't going to happen in the near future.' Mr Ho said it was fortunate that his three children were working or studying overseas, so he had less to worry about. The solicitor, who's renowned for taking on controversial and sensitive cases for the disadvantaged, said he had no choice but to stand firm. His cases include the small-house policy in the New Territories, in which male indigenous residents in the New Territories enjoy the right to build a small house in their village. Mr Ho is challenging the legality of the privilege. And in another case, about the public housing rental level, Mr Ho helped tenants who maintained the government had overcharged them rent in the past. 'There was a moment when I considered quitting: when I was attacked, bleeding heavily and waiting for the ambulance to come, I thought whether I could go on doing what I do. It was just a few minutes, and then I decided I had to stand firm. For people like me who have been social activists for 30 years, I cannot just step back. If I step back and am afraid, all the efforts I've made in the past decade would be wasted.' Mr Ho doubts that anyone will be caught and prosecuted for the crime. Police investigations have hit a brick wall after numerous public appeals failed to yield any results. There has also been no public response to the release of computer-aided sketches of two of the assailants. 'The prospect is not that good if you look into similar cases in the past. The police didn't arrest anyone for previous assaults organised by triads. I will be disappointed if nobody is caught. But I'm more worried about the impact if police fail to find the one responsible for such an organised and violent crime. The impact on other social activists would be far-reaching,' he said. With a die-hard approach to protecting people's rights, he went to Macau last Monday and tried to join a shareholders' meeting of gaming mogul Stanley Ho Hung-sun's Sociedade de Turismo e Diversoes de Macau, as a representative of the tycoon's estranged sister, Winnie Ho Yuen-ki. But he was refused entry to the meeting. Hong Kong police investigating the attack looked into the ongoing legal battle between Ms Ho and her brother. Stanley Ho rejected suggestions he was linked to the attack. The legislator said he refused to fear anyone in Macau and would go to the city from time to time for the legal case between Stanley Ho and his sister. 'Yes, I've thought about the worst-case scenario,' he said. 'I can't rule out the possibility that I will be attacked again or killed. But if someone is determined to harm you, he can do that no matter how much protection you have. You just can't escape.' Mr Ho's defiance was tinged with pragmatism when, four days after he was attacked, a death threat and a cutter blade arrived at his law office. 'I've asked my agent to top up my life insurance. I guess I need a little bit more protection on that front. But my agent said they have to assess the risk involved. I may also hire a driver and this may help, but I'm not sure if anyone would like to take this job,' he said with a laugh. The lawmaker, however, has benefited politically from the attack, with his image and popularity significantly improved. Party chairman Lee Wing-tat, who announced two weeks ago that he would not be running for a second term, has already told other key party members that he wanted Mr Ho to be his successor in December. 'It's meaningless to think whether I've gained from this incident. Yes, some people have said I don't need to do anything from now on and I will still be re-elected for Legco in 2008,' Mr Ho said. 'This is not right to think that way, and you have to remember that such a positive spinoff from an incident will not last. 'And I've told my colleagues that I don't want to be the party chairman. This is a very heavy task and I have other important commitments. I've committed to the work on the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements and the campaign on the Diaoyu Islands' sovereignty. I will not give them up.' He said the only real gain from the attack was in the outpouring of love and support. 'I've received so many e-mails, letters and little gifts. They came from everywhere in the world, and many of them from people who I barely know,' he said. 'Now I have a lot of bird nests and ling chi at home. The dried seafood and herbs will be enough for my family to use for a long time. I need to thank them all.' But he remained philosophical when asked to sum up his feelings about the attack. 'This is a professional hazard,' he said. 'I had expected other bad things to happen to me, such as being arrested by the police or put into jail, but I didn't expect to be beaten up like this.' The lawmaker finally set the trouble and hassles of the past month aside and headed off on a four-day trip to Malaysia, which he admitted was a way to make up to his wife for the stress she's been under.