03 March 2014

Black Wednesday 黑色星期三

I seldom wear black. But I have this black T-shirt I put on two times a year – once for the Tiananmen Square Massacre commemoration on 4 June and the other for the pro-democracy protest on 1 July. Over the years, this T-shirt, the only piece of black clothing I own, has come to symbolize both sadness and discontent.

Since C.Y. Leung moved into the Government House in 2012, I have been wearing my black T-shirt a lot more. If it wasn’t for a mass protest against the national education curriculum, it was for a demonstration in support of HKTV’s bid for a broadcasting license. There seems to be plenty of sadness and discontent to go around these days. Surely enough, yesterday morning I found myself once again rummaging through the closet looking for my protestor’s uniform, this time to defend the future of our press freedom. With a heavy heart, I slipped the black thing over my head and made my way to Tamar.

A dark day for Hong Kong

*                *                 *

What happened this past Wednesday has shocked the city to the core. Kevin Lau (劉進圖), former editor-in-chief of Ming Pao – one of the city’s major Chinese language newspapers – was attacked by two knifemen on his way to breakfast in Sai Wan Ho. We don’t know which is worse: that Lau was stabbed six times in his back and legs, or that it took place in public and in broad daylight. The assault reeks of the brazenness we expect only in the Mexican drug war or a turf battle between rival gangs in Russia. It makes Hong Kong, one of the safest international cities in the world, look like a lawless backwater.

Stabbed six times and now a poster boy for press freedom

Violence against the press is not unheard of in our city. There were a handful of high profile incidents in the past two decades. In May 1996, for instance, tabloid magazine publisher Leung Tin Wai (梁天偉) had his left forearm and both thumbs chopped off by attackers right in his office. Two years later in 1998, an equally vicious attack left Albert Cheng (鄭經翰), outspoken businessman and politician, hospitalized for two months. Just last year, Chen Ping (陳平) of iSun Affairs (陽光時務週刊), Jimmy Lai (黎智英) of the Apple Daily and Shih Wing Ching (施永青) of AM730 were either attacked or issued death threats. As recently as last month, firebrand radio talk show host Tam Tak Chi (譚得志), better known by his nickname Fast Beat (快必), was roughed up by a group of men outside his studio.

These violent episodes all have one thing in common: the crime never gets solved. Despite offers of multi-million dollar rewards, the bad guys go free and the police investigation goes cold after a few months. Even if the police manage to capture the assailants, perhaps with the help of eyewitnesses and security cameras, they won’t find out who the mastermind behind the attack is, ever. But we can’t pin all the blame on law enforcement. In this day and age, a text message and the target’s headshot are all it takes to order a hit. Anonymity has emboldened the cowardly; technology has enabled the mercenary. That puts journalists – people who make a living upsetting the apple cart  in an ever vulnerable position.

Albert Cheng, left for dead after a gruesome attack 

When there isn’t much else the police can do, the burden of crime investigation falls on the shoulders of the journalists themselves. Ming Pao staff is currently sifting through dozens of news stories overseen by Kevin Lau before he was let go by the newspaper in January (his termination is a whole other story) to identify what might have gotten the editor in trouble. Among the possible culprits, the one that has generated the most interest is Lau’s exposé about offshore assets stashed away by Beijing’s ruling elite. Written in collaboration with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), the story is believed to have ticked off some powerful big wigs up north. So far, the ICIJ has found no evidence linking the attack to the investigative report and so the guessing game continues.

Whoever ordered the hit on Lau, however, probably hadnt quite thought the whole thing through. If it’s vengeance, then why not take him out altogether but instead let him live to tell the tale? If it’s intimidation, why wait until after the news report has already been published? And why go after an editor who has already left his jobNone of it seems to make much sense to us. Then again, the scariest thing about thugs has always been their irrationality and tenuousness of a motive. Sometimes “just because” is reason enough to slash a person with a 12-inch knife.

Lau's report on the hidden fortunes of the Chinese leadership

Whether it is intended or not, the people behind the brutal attack has made an example of Kevin Lau. The brutality and irrationality of it all has sent chills down the spine of every journalist in the city. For if it was Lau last Wednesday, it could be you and me tomorrow. It is not so much that all investigative reports will invite a deadly reprisal but that they might. It is not so much that reporters must look over their shoulders before breaking a story but that they feel they should. The attack on Lau has given journalists one more thing to think about before they hit that “send” button, something that they didn’t need to think about heretofore. The mere possibility of violence has cast a dark shadow over their desks. And so to those who question what the stabbing of one man has got to do with the press freedom of the entire city – I won’t name any names – and to those who wonder why “expert analysts” are needed to get to the bottom of the heinous crime – they know who they are  here is their answer.

*                     *                    *

Yesterday’s rally began at the government complex in Tamar and ended at the nearby police headquarters. There were thousands of participants, all dressed in black, many of them reporters and journalism students. They carried placards bearing the words “They can’t kill us all,” a phrase borrowed from the infamous Kent State University shootings in 1970 in one of the darkest chapters in 20th Century American history. The choice of words is apt, for last Wednesday may well be one of the darkest days in post-Handover Hong Kong. And so there I was, once again in my black T-shirt, chanting slogans and praying for Lau’s recovery, all the while looking at a city that suddenly felt a bit foreign to me. 

A sea of black in Tamar


This article appears on SCMP.com under the title "Hong Kong's black Wednesday."

As posted on SCMP.com


  1. Whenever something like this happens, I am always reminded that there are still people full of courage and integrity in this world. They may be few and far between but I salute them regardless.


  2. Fear not, Jason.

    You are no Lau Chun-To.

    And the paper you write for is no Ming Pao.

    Reality is these cowards and thugs who ordered and carried out the attack, along with the vast majority of HK population, do not read SCMP.

    They cannot read and couldn't careless what you people write about in English in your expat community newspaper.

    You are safe.

    Nevertheless, I'd give you an A for your article. Well done.

    I feel proud as a Hongkonger to see those courageous people all dressed in black on Sunday's rally.


  3. HKBC: Are you alright ? Do you need help ?

  4. Interesting......

    CY Leung's younger daughter, Leung Chai-yan, came out to give her two cents and fair share about the brutal attack over last weekend. The 22-year-old who is studying law in Great Britain became instant spotlight after she posted on Facebook that the vicious stabbing of former Ming Pao chief editor Kevin Lau Chun-to had nothing to do with press freedom. Further, she released a 714-word statement in response to internet users' comments in perfect Queen's English that she she would stand by it.

    As a Hongkonger and one who is currently having her professional education in Great Britain instead of Hong Kong and then the daughter of the current HKSAR CE, many local natives profess that she would, one day, be one of these so called "Hong Kong expatriates community" running for the HKSAR CE designate in the not-so-distant future.

    So far, CY Leung and his wife have yet to respond to their daughter's comments, leaving Hongkongers to believe that they are proud of her outspoken remarks, in which she had professionally used the need of the hour and shot back in retaliation on CY's behalf over the media unfair reportings her father had endured in long silence.


    1. I don't want to be mean or anything.

      But I am appalled.

      What are you trying to say?

      CY Leung's daughter may be able to write in "Queen's English"--I have not read her writing--but you definitely cannot write in clear, concise sentences.

      You need to learn basic English composition from the school where you are getting your "professional education". Your English is like a maze. You used too many idioms and almost all of them were inappropriate.

      Has it occurred to you that native speakers of English do not write the way you do?

      In the big picture, look down at the horizon, in the grand scheme of things, in a generation or two or three, English will not be as important to us in a few decades from now. I know... that day is not here yet.


      I do understand your mindset. And you are in the majority.




      What they have done to us collectively all these years?

      You hold their culture and language superior than our own.

      You look down at your own kind the way they look down at you.

      To you, you try your hardest to be identified with them.

      To them, you are one of our own.

      A poem by HKBC.

      HKBC is an obscure Hong Kong published poet. You can even find his poetry in major bookstores in HK. However, few people bother to do that.


    3. What is your role play here ?


  5. Jason,

    Long overdue comment.

    This article sent chills down my back, literally it did. Felt positively sick at the office after reading it, and the pictures.

    You are right in that we are looking over our shoulders in practically EVERYTHING WE DO NOW, it is not even just writing about something or voicing our beliefs, whatever it is. I do wonder for how much longer will Hong Kong will inhabitable for us, for our minds and intellect if not for our mere physical survival. I was horrified when I read the news of the stabbing, and much worse when I learnt that Lau was actually the university mate of some of my good friends.

    I have not read CY Leung's daughter's comments in full (lucky for her, you know I am known for skeptical and "vicious" comments), so I can only rely on hearsay. What I gathered was her remarks were totally insensitive, bordering on nonsense. And as the daughter of some "high profile" official in Hong Kong, she certainly should watch her tongue (and pen and fingers) in times like this, and be more mindful about what she says. Given that, we still have no right to bar her from stating her own thoughts or beliefs or we will be guilty of the same crime. Maybe her tone and timing and media and possibly language through which she expressed herself could have been a wiser choice.

    Totally empathise with your final sentence, there could not be a better one: "a city that suddenly felt a bit foreign to me."



    1. Don't be so dramatic now, Christine.

      Like what I said, people like you and Jason are safe.

      Be real. Do you really think these low-lives behind the attack would give a damn about what you people saying here or in your newspaper in English? You are just as self-absorbed and self-important as most Westerners the natives encounter in rare occasions.

      Being a Hongkonger, I'm certain that at least 99% of those courageous souls in that Sunday rally do not write or speak like you. All these years, I have yet to see any HK Chinese talking about politics with each other in a language other than Chinese/Cantonese.

      English in HK is primary used for commerce. For politics and matters of the heart, I would say at least 96 percents of HK population prefer their native tongue, Chinese/Cantonese.

      Speaking of foreign, I don't feel HK is any more foreign to me now than any time before. But their Hong Kong---their social world and lifestyle---people talking about here are quite foreign to me most of the times.


  6. It is not so much a matter of whether people like Jason or me are "safe".

    And security got many more dimensions apart from being stabbed in the back or not.

    It is a matter of how changed the present Hong Kong is from the one we know and grew up in, and whether that is a change that we want, and "should" strive for.

    What do we feel about the Hong Kong now? And what do we want?



  7. To Christine:

    Your question:

    What do we feel about the Hong Kong now? And what do we want?

    From my vantage point, I feel great about what's going on in HK now. People are contesting and voicing their opinions in mass. People are demonstrating and protesting on the streets, demanding changes and their rights to be protected. And we become more and more socially conscious.

    It is a dream.


    What else is matter if you are not physically "safe"?

    Don't get freaked out.

    In terms of job security, the fancy high paying jobs you, Jason, and rest of the fancy people posting here have are secure for people like you.

    I don't think too many HK Chinese can write in English like you and your pals here do. The English-speaking people don't have their hands in HK politics anymore or at least not as much as in the past, but their invisible hands still have a strong hold on our financial sector. They need people like you and Jason.

    By the way, where do you get your North-America-liberal-art-college type of writing style from anyway? I'm sure that you didn't learn it in HK.


    Our wants are many. But the main thing we don't want is to go back to Pre-1997.

    We will move on.

    Let's talk about change. Come join us at 香港獨立媒體


    1. What a retard !!!



    2. My goodness.


      What a fancy name you have.

      With a name like Regina, I thought you could be more eloquent than that.


      Do your parents pronounce your name as "Ra-Jee-Nah"? Or they and your friends pronounce it with a short "i" instead of with the "ee" sound like we HK Chinese do?

      8- )


  8. "When the police can’t or won’t do much to progress the investigation, the burden falls back on the shoulders of the journalists themselves".Justify this ridiculous statement if you can!


    1. Absolutely ridiculous in terms of Hong Kong Police's inability in their prolonged investigation to net the masterminds of the serial plots. ( It is not good enough to catch and identify the paid doers only.) Probably the Hong Kong Police have had already done so, but for some sensitive political reasons, were/are not in a position to disclose or divulge.

      So the burden of proof goes back to those working in the media to help themselves. Justification is through their journalistic strengths.


  9. Well said, Jason; but why do you think the police are so ineffective?