Days after thousands took to the streets of Hong Kong to protest deteriorating press freedoms, ousted editor Kevin Lau -- at the center of the controversy -- was stabbed multiple times by unknown assailants and is fighting for his life.
The attack took place early Wednesday morning as Lau was walking to his car, his wife told reporters, and was left with life-threatening injuries to one of his lungs. He was taken to the city's Eastern Hospital.
Police say the attacker escaped by jumping onto a waiting motorcycle driven by another suspect.
The shocking developments come after Hong Kong journalists were outraged that Lau was fired -- without explanation -- from his job as head editor of Ming Pao, one of the most influential newspapers in the country and a constant critic of Beijing's policies.
More than 90 percent of Lau's staff filed a petition asking for an explanation over the firing and many who worked with him refused to write their columns, leaving the newspaper with blank spaces in a sign of defiance.
Expressing the majority of Hong Kong's journalists feelings, the city's chief executive C.Y. Leung issued a statement Wednesday, saying he was "indignant" and "outraged" over the attack on Lau.
BBC News - Hong Kong: Ex-Ming Pao editor Kevin Lau attacked http://t.co/WpdCu92ALd pic.twitter.com/Jw72DdqqPQ"Hong Kong is a society ruled by law, and we will not tolerate this kind of violence," Leung said.
— edde (@Edourdoo) February 26, 2014
Meanwhile, Hong Kong Journalists Association vice-chairman Shirley Yam said she felt "terrified" after learning of the news of Lau's stabbing.
"No journalist should be subject to violence," she told CNN. "I have known Kevin for 30 years and I cannot think of any reason why anyone would try to kill him."
The attack on Lau comes as thousands of protesters took to the streets of Hong Kong to voice their concerns over what they say are the increased attempts by China to control the country's press.
According to police sources, the vicious stabbing of the influential journalist was "a classic triad hit, which was designed to maim, not kill, to send a warning."
As of Wednesda night, local time,Lau, 49, remained at a Hong Kong hospital in critical condition. Police are searching for two suspects and have released footage from a nearby security camera. The motorcycle they were driving was recovered in a different area of the city.
Hospital officials describe the injuries as a six-inch long knife wound to his chest, which exposed vital organs, a cut to his back, and two more to his legs. The attack was over in the blink of an eye, but left the Hong Kong journalist fighting for his life.
The United States Consulate General Clifford Hart issued a statement Wednesday night:
"We welcome the Hong Kong Government's condemnation of this vicious crime and commitment to conduct a thorough investigation to bring the perpetrators swiftly to justice."