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Hundreds of people took to Hong Kong’s streets to show support for press freedom and to demand police step up efforts to catch the assailants who critically injured the former chief editor of a newspaper in the city.

Kevin Lau, former chief editor of Hong Kong’s Ming Pao Daily News, was ambushed on Wednesday as he got out of his car near a restaurant in Sai Wan Ho when an assailant slashed him with a meat cleaver. The attack left Lau’s internal organs exposed and damaged nerves in his leg, the South China Morning Post reported on Friday. Lau, 49, is now chief operating officer at a unit of Media Chinese International Ltd, which owns Ming Pao.

Lau, who had been in critical condition, is now stable and was transferred to a private hospital ward Saturday, Ming Pao News reported Sunday.

“Violent attacks are to make us fear, and if we are scared we will lose our freedom,” Lau said in a recorded message broadcast to protesters Sunday outside the city’s government offices. “I hope all journalists remain fearless and believe that justice can be manifested.”

The police attach great importance to this case and are investigating every angle, Li Kin-fai, regional police commander on Hong Kong Island, said in a statement Sunday.

“Police would not tolerate any violence,” Li said. “The police, the media and members of the public shared the same goal to apprehend the culprits.”

The attack has added fuel to earlier concerns among Hong Kong journalists that the city’s press freedom is being eroded. The march followed a Feb. 23 protest attended by at least 1,600 people. The city’s ranking on the global Press Freedom Index compiled by Reporters Without Borders fell to 58 last year from 18 in 2002.

Ming Pao has tripled to HK$3 million ($387,000) its cash reward offered for the capture of Lau’s assailants. Hong Kong police located a taxi driver who picked up a possible suspect in the slashing, the SCMP reported Saturday, citing an unidentified person.

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