Two found guilty of Hong Kong journalist attack

File picture from March 2014 of one of two alleged assailants who attacked former Ming Pao newspaper editor Kevin Lau with a meat cleaver in February that year. Two men were found guilty on Aug 13, 2015.
File picture from March 2014 of one of two alleged assailants who attacked former Ming Pao newspaper editor Kevin Lau with a meat cleaver in February that year. Two men were found guilty on Aug 13, 2015. PHOTO: AFP

HONG KONG (AFP) - Two men were found guilty Thursday of a savage knife attack on a journalist in Hong Kong that intensified fears over press freedom in the city.

Yip Kim-wah and Wong Chi-wah were convicted of causing grievous bodily harm in the brutal attack on Kevin Lau, former editor of the investigative Ming Pao newspaper.

Lau was stabbed in broad daylight in February last year before his assailants escaped on a motorcycle.

The jury took less than four hours to reach a unanimous verdict. The defendants, both 39, remained expressionless in court 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 the men had been offered HK$100,000 (S$18,163) each to carry out the hit, without elaborating on the source of the offer.

They 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 said 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.

During the trial Lau, 50, who was stabbed six times, recalled how he was attacked by “a hard object” before a motorcycle carrying two men sped off.

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.

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 are remanded in custody and sentencing will take place on August 21.