Two men, both 37, were arrested in mainland China as the suspected attackers who ambushed Kevin Lau on Feb. 26, Commissioner of Police Tsang Wai-hung told reporters in Hong Kong yesterday. Police detained nine other suspects in the city in connection with the case, it said in a statement.
“We suspect the assailants were hired and they have triad background,” Tsang said yesterday, referring to Chinese criminal gangs. There’s no evidence linking the attack to Lau’s journalistic work, though the police aren’t ruling out any motives, he said.
Thousands of people took to Hong Kong’s streets on March 2, demanding the police step up efforts to catch the attackers who critically injured Lau amid concern that the city’s press freedom is being eroded. Lau was recently removed from the top editorial role at Media Chinese International Ltd. (685)’s Ming Pao.
The police are negotiating with Chinese authorities for extradition of the two men arrested in China, Tsang said.
Lau was slashed by an attacker with a meat cleaver as he got out of his car near a restaurant in Sai Wan Ho in the eastern part of Hong Kong Island. The attacker then rode off with another man on a motorbike, according to pictures from surveillance cameras near the site of the attack.
Lau said it may take him two years to recover from the attack, which damaged the nerves in his legs, according to an article he wrote for his newspaper.
“We urge the government to solve the case as soon as possible, so journalists will regain confidence in the rule of law and not be intimidated by the threat of violence,” Lau said in a video on the newspaper’s website yesterday. Lau also said he and his family aren’t involved in personal or financial disputes, and that the attack is probably related to his former job as chief editor.
Ming Pao was a partner of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists on a reporting project that showed how billionaires and the families of China’s political leaders were using offshore tax havens. The Chinese-language newspaper, founded in 1959, is one of the main dailies in Hong Kong.
The newspaper last year won a prize from the Society of Publishers in Asia for its stories on the illegal structures found at the homes of Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying and former No. 2 official Henry Tang.
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