March 2 (Bloomberg) -- Thousands of people took to Hong Kong’s streets to show support for press freedom and to demand police step up efforts to catch assailants who critically injured a former newspaper editor.
Kevin Lau, former chief editor of the Ming Pao Daily News, was ambushed on Feb. 26 as he got out of his car near a restaurant in Sai Wan Ho. An attacker slashed him with a meat cleaver, leaving Lau’s internal organs exposed and damaging nerves in his leg, the South China Morning Post reported on Feb. 28. Lau, 49, is now chief operating officer at a unit of Media Chinese International Ltd, which owns Ming Pao.
About 13,000 people participated in today’s march, Hong Kong Journalists Association chairwoman Sham Yee-lan told reporters. Police said around 8,600 people joined the rally at its peak, according to Radio Television Hong Kong. Lau, who had been in critical condition, is now stable and was transferred to a private hospital ward yesterday, Ming Pao News reported today.
“Violent attacks are to make us fear, and if we are scared we will lose our freedom,” Lau said in a recorded message broadcast to protesters today outside the city’s government offices. “I hope all journalists remain fearless and believe that justice can be manifested.”
The police attach great importance to the case and are investigating every angle, Li Kin-fai, regional police commander on Hong Kong Island, said in a statement today.
“Police would not tolerate any violence,” Li said. “The police, the media and members of the public share the same goal to apprehend the culprits.”
The attack has fueled earlier concern among Hong Kong journalists that the city’s press freedom is being eroded. Today’s march followed a Feb. 23 protest attended by at least 1,600 people. The city’s ranking on the global Press Freedom Index compiled by Reporters Without Borders fell to 58 last year from 18 in 2002.
Ming Pao has tripled a cash reward offered for the capture of Lau’s assailants to HK$3 million ($387,000). Hong Kong police located a taxi driver who picked up a possible suspect in the attack on Lau, the SCMP reported yesterday, citing an unidentified person.
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