'Mastermind' of Hong Kong journalist attack must face justice: Victim

'Mastermind' of Hong Kong journalist attack must face justice: Victim
In this file picture taken on March 18, 2014, one of two alleged assailants of an attack on Kevin Lau, a former editor of the liberal Ming Pao newspaper, helps police reconstruct the scene of the crime in Hong Kong.
PHOTO: AFP

HONG KONG - A veteran Hong Kong journalist who was seriously wounded in a savage knife attack called for the "mastermind" of the crime to be brought to justice on Thursday after two men were convicted.

Kevin Lau, former editor of the investigative Ming Pao newspaper, was stabbed in broad daylight in February last year in an attack that intensified fears over press freedom in the city.

Yip Kim-wah and Wong Chi-wah were convicted on Thursday of causing grievous bodily harm with the jury taking less than four hours to reach a unanimous verdict.

But questions remain over why they carried out the attack and who offered them an alleged payment of HK$100,000 (S$18,000).

The attack came just weeks after Lau was removed from his position at the helm of the Ming Pao and replaced with an editor deemed to be pro-Beijing.

His sacking triggered staff protests and widespread fears that Beijing was tightening control of the press in the semi-autonomous territory.

Prosecutors said the men had each been offered the amount but did not elaborate on the source.

Lau said whoever planned the attack was still at large.

"I urge the police to take all efforts to continue their investigation until they find out the mastermind behind the crime." Only then would the "shadow cast on journalists" by the attack be lifted, he said.

However, he also described the convictions as "significant for press freedom".

"The verdict today reversed the trend of the past two decades... whenever a journalist was attacked and injured, there was always no breakthrough," he told reporters.

While no motive was specified in court, Lau, 50, said he felt he was targeted because of his job.

"I see nothing in my personal life that may possibly trigger such a violent attack. I believe it has to be related to my work," he said.

Attack sparks protests

The defendants, both 39, remained expressionless as the decision was handed down.

They had pleaded not guilty to the charges, saying they had nothing to do with the attack, and accused police of beating them into confessions while in custody.

Prosecutors said Yip had told police he had driven Wong to a street where Lau usually ate after being offered the money, and that there was CCTV footage of the two near Lau's home ahead of the attack.

But electrician Yip insisted he only went to the area to find an ex-boss who owed him wages.

Both men were detained in mainland China before being returned to Hong Kong in mid-March last year.

Prosecutor Nicholas Adams said Thursday that both Yip and Wong had previous offences - Yip for drug-related crimes and car theft, and Wong for gambling.

During the trial Lau who was stabbed six times, recalled how he was attacked by "a hard object" before a motorcycle carrying two men sped off.

He was left in a critical condition and continues to need physiotherapy three times a week.

Hong Kong was a British colony until it was handed back to China in 1997 and is ruled under a "one country, two systems" deal.

The system allows it far greater civil liberties than those enjoyed on the Chinese mainland, including freedom of speech and the right to protest.

Both defendants were remanded in custody and are due to be sentenced on August 21.

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