From the print edition of The Economist – As he got out of his car on the morning of February 26th Kevin Lau Chun-to was approached by a man who stabbed him in the back and legs, before fleeing with an accomplice on a motorcycle. Mr Lau was rushed to hospital critically wounded. His condition later stabilised.
It is the latest in a string of attacks on targets in Hong Kong perceived to be hostile to mainland China. In June last year three masked men threatened workers with knives at Next Media group and burned 26,000 copies of Apple Daily, a famously anti-Communist Party newspaper. The same month, Chen Ping, publisher of iSun Affairs, a weekly known for covering sensitive mainland issues, was beaten by a group of baton-wielding men. Other recent incidents included the dismissal this month of Li Wei-ling, a prominent talk-show host, who was critical of China.
Mr Lau had, until last month, been editor-in-chief of Ming Pao, a Chinese-language newspaper known for aggressive investigative reporting. He was replaced by an editor widely seen as a pro-establishment figure. This prompted the editorial staff to stage repeated protests and to sign a petition demanding that managers explain Mr Lau’s removal, to no avail.
Three days before the attack on Mr Lau, thousands had taken to the streets of Hong Kong in support of press freedom. A Ming Pao staff group said he had led them in “resisting pressure from the invisible hands who try to meddle in the newsroom”. Under him, the newspaper took part in a report by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists that revealed the offshore holdings of some of China’s elite, including stakes in companies owned by relatives of President Xi Jinping and former premier, Wen Jiabao, that were registered with offshore tax havens.
Shirley Yam, vice-chairman of the Hong Kong Journalists Association, called the attack a “provocation to Hong Kong press and freedom of expression”. There is no evidence of mainland involvement in the attack on Mr Lau but Claudia Mo, a former journalist who is now a local politician, said it felt like “a warning sign for the local press that if you are not obedient enough you just may get hurt.”
Reporters Without Borders, a Paris-based pressure group, ranked Hong Kong 61st for press freedom worldwide in 2013—far below its 18th place when the rankings were first conducted in 2002.