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Friday, August 21, 2015, 16:40

Pair get 19 years for attack on Kevin Lau

By Shadow Li in Hong Kong

Pair get 19 years for attack on Kevin Lau
Kevin Lau, former chief editor of Ming Pao newspaper, speaks during the 19th Human Rights Press Awards in Hong Kong on May 9, 2015. (AFP PHOTO / DALE DE LA REY)

Two hit men who brutally slashed former Ming Pao chief editor Kevin Lau Chun-to in broad daylight last year were each sentenced to 19 years in prison at the High Court on Friday.

The pair — Yip Kim-wah and Wong Chi-wah, both 39 — had been found guilty of one count of causing grievous bodily harm with intent. Each received an additional 12-month sentence for one count of stealing a motorcycle — used to carry out the assault. Yip received another six months for stealing a license plate. All sentences will be served concurrently.

In handing down the sentence, Justice Esther Toh Lye-ping said the attack was serious, brutal and senseless. It severely undermined the very foundation of the rule of law in Hong Kong as it happened in broad daylight.

"A deterrent sentence is totally necessary in this case," Toh concluded. She also praised Lau for his "superhuman calm to dial 999" after the attack.

Both defendants submitted three letters for mitigation. But they were all rejected for being "insignificant in view of the gravity of the offense", as the judge put it.

"There are no mitigation factors for either defendant to carry out such a cold-blooded attack for financial gains," the judge said. Toh added that it was chilling to see the pair smiling and relaxed on CCTV footage as they walked through a shopping mall to buy shoes after the brutal attack.

In view of the case being an attack on a journalist, the judge noted the city's good fortune in having freedom of the press, which "is a beacon of light to shine on the disadvantaged, to provide a voice to those who cannot speak for themselves".

She also praised the police in charge of the investigation for their efficiency in solving what might be considered an "unsolvable" crime in other places.

Lau was attacked when he was heading to a restaurant for breakfast in Sai Wan Ho on Feb 26, 2014. He received six deep cuts and was in hospital for five months subsequently.

The pair fled to the mainland after the attack and were apprehended by Guangdong police on March 8, 2014.

In a video interview broadcast during the trial, Yip confessed to Hong Kong police that he and Wong were offered HK$100,000 to teach the veteran journalist "a lesson".

Both later claimed in court the confession was a result of torture and threats by mainland and Hong Kong police.

Lau issued a statement later on Friday, saying the sentence had sent a strong signal to society and would help to deter similar offenses. Lau also wants police to continue the investigation to catch the mastermind behind the crime.

Lau, who now oversees Ming Pao's multimedia business, still needs physiotherapy three times a week.

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