Two men who attacked former Ming Pao editor Kevin Lau with a knife have been sent back to jail after failing to appeal their sentences on Wednesday.

Yip Kim-wah and Wong Chi-wah were found guilty of causing grievous bodily harm with intent in 2015 and sentenced to 19 years each in prison. In February 2014, the duo attacked Lau with a beef knife as he was getting out of his car in Sai Wan Ho, which left six wounds and hospitalised Lau for five months.

Both attackers were later caught in mainland China and admitted to receiving HK$100,000 each for the act. It remains unclear who was behind the attack.

Kevin Lau.
Kevin Lau. Photo: Stand News.

On Wednesday, the Court of Appeal issued a strongly-worded judgment upholding the men’s sentence, which the judges described as fitting for a “particularly heinous case.”

The three appeal judges – Derek Pang, Kevin Zervos and Ian McWalters – described the attack as well-planned and well-executed, with a degree of planning that “easily exceeds other cases of the same kind.” When it was time to strike, the defendants carried out their actions with a “force and clarity of purpose” that was beyond question, the judgment read.

Lau was disabled for life as a result: “For a middle-aged person who avows to have been attacked, maimed, and has much of his (distinguished, some would say) past life taken away from him for no reason, the anguish that this misfortune must have generated is obvious.”

high court
File photo: Holmes Chan/HKFP.

Both attackers argued in court that they were unaware of Lau’s identity, but the judges were not convinced. They added that it was acceptable for the first instance judge to mention Lau’s background as a respected journalist in her judgment.

“For a journalist who is quiet and peaceable in disposition, and whose only enemies are likely to be those whom he has offended in the course of his work, the conclusion that Mr Lau was attacked precisely because of his profession is, given all the circumstances of the case, inevitable,” the appeal judges wrote.

Nevertheless, the judges said that Lau’s profession had no effect on determining the sentences.

press freedom
A press freedom protest. Photo: HKFP.

The two men also argued that mainland authorities forced them to give confessions, but the appeal court said that the issue of confessions was left to the jury at the trial stage, and could not be a reason to overturn the sentences.

Lau’s 2014 attack sparked a discussion on press freedom in Hong Kong, with local journalists attending a rare protest wearing blue ribbons in a show of solidarity.

Reporters Without Borders issued a statement on Thursday calling on the authorities to continue their investigation so that, not only the perpetrators, but also the sponsors of the attack are punished.

Holmes Chan is a reporter at Hong Kong Free Press. He covers local news with a focus on law, politics, and social movements. He studied law and literature at the University of Hong Kong.