Journalists were quick to make capital of the incident, organising a march for the Sunday following, which ended up in front of government headquarters, where they unfurled a huge banner with the bizarre message “You Can’t Kill Us All”. Bizarre, given that “You” had killed no one, certainly not Kevin, who was recovering nicely in hospital.
It was especially bizarre because it is difficult to imagine why anyone would wish to kill the average Hong Kong journalist. For getting the details wrong in most stories they cover, I hear “You” say. “You” might have a point there, but, with so much decent journalism available online, do people actually read their stuff and would they go to all the bother that killing someone involves?
Kevin’s carefully crafted statement proves to be of a different water entirely, taking a leaf out of the Renaissance “Guide to Aspiring Authors” by combining profit with pleasure (where ‘profit’ must be understood in its sense of bringing benefit to the reader with regard to offering him enlightenment).
As we have already mentioned, the very first “statement” that the statement makes is contained not in the text but in the letter-heading, which shows that Kevin is keen that what follows in the body of the statement should not only be lent added gravitas but should also be seen as coming with the approval, if not the endorsement, of the entire journalistic industry – oops, “profession”.
Next for the statement itself (which was of course unsolicited, being quite separate from anything he was asked to provide in order to help the police with their enquiries). Here it is in full:
“I am grateful for the police’s efforts over the past few days in apprehending the culprits and protecting my family members. I hope the police can hunt down the mastermind and ascertain the motive for this brutal attack justly and impartially as soon as possible.
Before the truth is revealed, it is bewildering for the Commissioner of Police to have said that there had been no direct evidence to suggest that the assault was related to any journalistic work. I hope the police can come up with a swift clarification.
I have already signed and verified my testimony to the police, in which I stated that my family members and I are not involved in any financial, extra-marital or other personal disputes. I am, therefore, positive that the assault is related to my job in the newspaper.
I am encouraged by the progress in the investigation and hope that the police can make an early arrest of the mastermind behind this crime.”
The first thing to note is the repeated reference to a “mastermind”, a word which is regularly trotted out when people with connections to the media are targeted by unknown figures in attacks that are fated to remain unsolved. (One thinks of Albert Cheng King Hon and Leung Tin Wai in the 1990s, and more recently the attacks on the property of Jimmy Lai Chee Ying, publisher of Apple Daily.)
In the case under consideration, the point is not so much that anyone denies that a mastermind exists (no one is seriously suggesting that the assailant and his accomplice – two “plumbers”, who double as Triad members – did it), but rather that we don’t know what kind of motivation said shadowy figure in the background had for ordering the attack.
But I have got ahead of myself, because before we get to the first mention of “mastermind” we have Kevin extending his gratitude to the police for “protecting [his] family members”. What, you may ask, is the significance of this? Is it not merely the expression of a courtesy to Asia’s finest? Should we not be applauding Kevin for being able, at a time of such personal difficulty, to step back and consider things from someone else’s point of view?
Well, call me an old cynic, but I’m not so sure. You see, if Kevin was attacked because, say, just for the sake of argument, he had been conducting that extra-marital affair he talks about, then, to be quite honest, his wife and children (not to mention, granny, nan, granddad, pops, his brothers and sisters, and the whole extended family who get together to celebrate all those festivals we have) wouldn’t have been in much need of protection.
Now, the rest of the statement up to the point where he signs off with the somewhat forlorn (and possibly disingenuous – see below) hope that the police will soon nab the “mastermind” is devoted to a lengthy attempt to persuade one and all that the reason for the attack was the nature of his job duties at Ming Pao. (Kevin doesn’t say this, but I think he means his former duties as chief editor rather than the duties he was undertaking at the time of the attack, since nowhere has it been suggested that someone powerful was pissed off by his work on the Ming Pao Group’s e-Learning platform).
It is in relation to this that we find the most extraordinary sentence in the whole statement. I don’t know if it is because he is beginning to believe all the publicity about himself as saviour of the free Hong Kong press corps or if it reflects a deeper malaise within, but it takes bare-faced cheek to try and tell the local police chief how to do his job. Especially, when it is anything but “bewildering” that the police should follow tried and trusted procedures by considering every possible motive for the attack. The fact that the majority of such attacks in Hong Kong are the result of getting into debt or into bed with the wrong person more than justifies the police in keeping all their options open. One can just imagine the fuss that an organ like Ming Pao would make if they were to learn that the police were ruling out a particular motive for committing a crime in any other case.
As for the conclusion of Kevin’s apologia, is it just that cynic in me or when Kevin says that he hopes the police will “make an early arrest of the mastermind”, does he in fact mean quite the opposite? And, on a final note, is there, I wonder, any significance in the choice of tense when Kevin writes that he told the police after the attack that "my family members and I are not involved in any financial, extra-marital or other personal disputes".