A former editor of a major Hong Kong newspaper known for its critical reporting has been stabbed and seriously injured. The attack on Wednesday is likely to fuel concern among journalists about what many see as an erosion of media freedoms.
A man in a helmet attacked Kevin Lau Chun-to, former chief editor of the daily Ming Pao, slashing him in the back several times.
The assailant rode off on a motorcycle with an accomplice.
Mr Lau is in a critical condition in hospital after managing to summon police himself.
Police said they so far had no clues as to who might have carried out the attack. No-one has been detained.
The attack took place days after 6,000 journalists marched to Hong Kong’s government headquarters to demand the city’s leaders uphold press freedom and repel what they see as intrusions from mainland China.
The Hong Kong Journalists’Association has denounced the stabbing and called on authorities to “pursue [Mr Lau’s] attackers and those malignant forces behind them without fear or favour.
“The attackers must be brought to justice as quickly as possible to allay public fears.”
Mr Lau was recently replaced by a Malaysian Chinese journalist with suspected pro-Beijing leanings who takes up his duties this week.
Although the motive for the attack is unclear, Mr Lau’s removal from the editorial post sparked a revolt in the Ming Pao newsroom by journalists who suggested the paper’s editorial independence may be undermined.
“We hope the police can swiftly prosecute the culprit as many cases of attacks against the media in the past have ended up being unsolved,” Ming Pao staff concern group Phyllis Tsang said.
“This attack will damage perceptions of Hong Kong as a safe city and its reputation for media freedoms.”
Ming Pao, co-founded by martial arts novelist Louis Cha, is owned by colourful Malaysian media baron, Tiong Hiew King, through his Media Chinese International.
Media outlets have periodically been subject to attacks in Hong Kong. The offices of a small independent media outlet were recently ransacked and a car rammed the front gate of the home of Jimmy Lai, publisher of Hong Kong’s popular anti-Beijing newspaper, the Apple Daily.
An incident of such brutality is unusual in the former British colony, which reverted to Chinese rule in 1997.
Hong Kong generally enjoys a high degree of autonomy and freedom, but Beijing’s Communist Party leaders have resisted public pressure for full democracy.
Beijing has agreed in principle for Hong Kong to hold direct elections in 2017, but no specific rules have yet been set on whether open nominations for candidates will be allowed.