Police in Hong Kong and China have arrested nine men with suspected links to organised crime for the stabbing of Hong Kong journalist Kevin Lau, the territory's chief of police says.
Thousands of protesters dressed in black and wearing blue ribbons, symbolizing press freedom, marched in condemnation of the attack earlier this month.
Protesters held up banners saying "They can't kill us all" and "Protect press freedom" as the attack was seen by many as an assault on press freedom.
Hong Kong, a former British colony that returned to Chinese rule in 1997, is a freewheeling capitalist hub which enjoys a high degree of autonomy and freedom.
However, Beijing's Communist Party leaders have resisted public pressure for full democracy.
Two men had been arrested in China and seven in Hong Kong in connection with the attack on Kevin Lau, a former editor of the respected Ming Pao newspaper, who was seriously wounded.
"We suspect the assailants were hired and they have a triad background," Andy Tsang, Hong Kong's commissioner of police, said.
All nine were Hong Kong residents. Mr Tsang declined to give specific grounds for making the arrests, but said preliminary inquiries suggested the attacks had nothing to do with Mr Lau's journalistic work.
"We will not rule out any motive at the moment, but according to the information at hand there is nothing to suspect it is related to journalism at all," he said.
Suspicions had spread that powerful individuals from mainland China or pro-Beijing allies opposed to the city's push for full democracy may have been involved in the attack.
The two men were arrested in China's Guangdong province by Chinese police, with whom Hong Kong police have been co-operating closely on the case, Mr Tsang said.
The lack of a rendition arrangement between Hong Kong and China, however, meant that it wasn't yet clear whether the men could be brought back to the city to face trial.
"We will continue investigating this crime," Mr Tsang said.
We don't rule out more people being arrested."
Mr Lau, speaking from his hospital bed where he's now in stable condition, says he hoped police could crack the case swiftly "to restore journalists' confidence in the rule of law".
He was stabbed in the back and legs several times by a man in a helmet on February 26.
The assailant rode off on a motorcycle with an accomplice.
Mr Lau's wife, Vivien, says she believes the attack was related to his journalistic work.
He was until recently the chief editor of Ming Pao, a Chinese-language newspaper known for its investigative reports.
"The mastermind behind the case still hasn't been found," Mr Lau's wife said. "I hope they can find him as soon as possible... to know whether it's related to media freedoms or not."