Duo who knifed former HK newspaper editor found guilty

One of two alleged assailants (centre) of an attack on Kevin Lau helping police reconstruct the scene of the crime in Hong Kong on March 18, 2014.
One of two alleged assailants (centre) of an attack on Kevin Lau helping police reconstruct the scene of the crime in Hong Kong on March 18, 2014.PHOTO: AFP

Ex-Ming Pao chief calls for mastermind of the crime to be brought to justice

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

Mr Kevin Lau, former editor of the 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 yesterday 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$18,100).

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

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.

MR KEVIN LAU, former editor of the Ming Pao newspaper

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

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

Mr Lau said that 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," he said.

Only then would the "shadow cast on journalists" by the attack be lifted, he said.

However, he also described the convictions of the two men 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, Mr 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.

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

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

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

But electrician Yip insisted he went to the area only to look for a former 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 yesterday that both Yip and Wong had previous offences - Yip for drug-related crimes and car theft, and Wong for gambling.

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

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 14, 2015, with the headline 'Duo who knifed former HK newspaper editor found guilty'. Print Edition | Subscribe