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After Brutal Attack, Hong Kong Journalists Call for End to Violence

Staff members of the Mingpao newspaper hold their newspaper, with the headline on the former editor Kevin Lau, who was assaulted and injured, during a protest outside the Mingpao office in Hong Kong, Feb. 27, 2014.
Journalists are calling on Hong Kong's residents to take a stand against violence after a vicious attack on a prominent editor.

Journalists groups started a signature campaign Friday to gather support for press freedom after Kevin Lau, former editor in chief of the Mingpao daily and one of the city's most influential editors, was stabbed multiple times.

Lau is in stable condition after two men ambushed him Wednesday morning and left him fighting for his life with six knife wounds to the legs and back.

A loosely organized group of former employees of the newspaper, the Mingpao Alumni, organized the petition.

Chan Kin Kai, a member of the group, says the signatures are a way to put pressure on the executive and the police to solve the case and protect journalists.

“Up to now we do not know what is the inside story behind Kevin Lau's issue," she said. "We hope the public will be more concerned about the press and the situation about freedom of speech and freedom of press.”

Emily Li, a business student at London University, signed the petition and said she was very angry about the attack against Lau, which she saw as an attack on freedom of the press.

The assault against Lau shocked many in Hong Kong, a city known in Asia for its vibrant media environment. The motives and perpetrators are still not known.

Anti-triad police have been brought into the investigation, suggesting a link between Lau's ambush and the city's criminal organizations.

Under Lau's tenure, Mingpao strengthened its reputation as a hard hitting newspaper, but the news of Lau's replacement in January stirred resentment among the staff, who feared Lau's dismissal was political.

Many on the staff believed Mingpao's management sidelined Lau because the paper's reporting had angered mainland authorities.

Since Lau's attack, police have been sifting through sensitive reports done by Mingpao over the past year, looking for clues to who might have a motive to harm him.

Chen Guangho, a retired businessman who considers Mingpao to be a well-balanced newspaper, also signed the petition on Friday.

"Without evidence, it is hard to point fingers at specifics in the newspaper's coverage that might have made Lau some enemies," he said. "It is up to the police to establish the truth."

In addition to his work as a journalist, Lau was a professor of journalism at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.

On Friday, students from the department also set up a table to solicit signatures.

“Professors told students that law can protect journalists, but in fact, he has been hurt on the street for everyone to see it," said Elle Lam, a student at the school. "We are afraid that journalists are intimidated by violence.”

This is not the first time journalists have been victims of violent attacks in Hong Kong. In one particularly cruel assault, thugs cut off the forearm of journalist Leung Tin-Wai in 1996. His assailants were not caught.

A march to support freedom of the press is scheduled for Sunday.