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Suspect ‘beaten into confession’ for attack on H.K. journalist

August 6, 2015

A man accused of a savage knife attack on a journalist in Hong Kong told a court Thursday he was “beaten” into confessing to the grisly crime in his first day of testimony at the trial.

Two men have been charged over the attack on Kevin Lau, former editor of the investigative Ming Pao newspaper, after the brutal street attack was carried out in broad daylight in February last year by two men who then escaped on a motorcycle.

The attack intensified fears over press freedom in Hong Kong.

Yip Kim-wah and Wong Chi-wah, both 39, have denied charges of malicious wounding with the intent to cause grievous bodily harm at the city’s high court.

The pair were detained in mainland China before being returned to Hong Kong to be formally arrested in mid-March last year.

But Yip, who for the first time testified in court on Thursday, said he was forced to confess while under detention for “over one week” in mainland China.

“They kept asking me if I did it… When I answered no… they would beat me,” the spectacled, thinly built defendant told the jury, adding he was injured in the head, abdomen and chest during the interrogation.

After this, “I could only compromise and do whatever”, he told his lawyer Kevin Egan through a translator.

Yip also alleged that a Chinese official had told him Beijing did not want the case to become a political issue and he could be executed if he did not cooperate.

At cross examination, prosecutor Nicholas Adams suggested CCTV had captured Yip near Lau’s home ahead of the attack.

But the electrician said he only went there to find an ex-boss who owed him wages. The hearing continues Friday.

Adams earlier said Yip had told police he drove Wong to a street where Lau usually ate after being offered HK$100,000 ($13,000) to carry out the hit.

Earlier in the trial, the 50-year-old Lau, who was stabbed six times, recalled how he was attacked by “a hard object” before a motorcycle carrying two men sped off.

“My legs felt numb… I saw blood in my palm and my leg had no power,” he said.

The attack came just weeks after Lau was removed from his position at the helm of the Ming Pao and replaced with an editor deemed to be pro-Beijing.

His sacking triggered staff protests and widespread fears that Beijing was tightening control of the press in the semi-autonomous territory.

Hong Kong was a British colony until it was handed back to China in 1997 and is ruled under a “one country, two systems” deal.

The system allows it far greater civil liberties than those enjoyed on the Chinese mainland, including freedom of speech and the right to protest.

Dispatches from AFP concerning freedom of information, censorship and news coverage in regions where independent media is under threat.