Hong Kong’s top controversial leader has hit out at the US for its comments condemning the crackdown on Apple Daily executives, by accusing the foreign governments of “beautifying” acts that “endangered national security”.
Hong Kong’s Chief Executive, Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor accused the foreign governments of “underplay the significance of breaching” China’s controversial national security law.
She denied that the new law was being used as a tool to stifle freedom of expression in Hong Kong while terming Apple Daily’s operations as a violation of the laws, reported South China Morning Post.
“Don’t try to underplay the significance of breaching the national security law, and don’t try to beautify these acts of endangering national security, which the foreign governments have taken so, so much to their heart,” she said.
“Don’t try to accuse the Hong Kong authorities of using the national security law to suppress the media or stifle freedom of expression.”
Hong Kong’s pro-democracy paper Apple Daily was raided by some 500 police personnel on 17 June and five of its executives were arrested. Editor-in-chief Ryan Law and chief executive officer Cheung Kim-hung were charged with national security law while its owner Jimmy Lai was already in jail.
The authorities said the raids were related to more than 30 articles that had called for foreign sanctions against the Hong Kong and Chinese governments.
Police also froze HK$18m (£1.64mn) of its assets of three companies: Apple Daily Ltd, Apple Daily Printing Ltd and AD Internet Ltd. It also seized the journalistic materials from the office.
Ms Lam’s comments came after international condemnation poured in with the European Union, UK, US and UN human rights spokesperson issuing strong statements.
US State Department spokesperson Ned Price demanded immediate release of the newspaper’s executives and said Washington was “deeply concerned by Hong Kong authorities’ selective use of the national security law to arbitrarily target independent media organisations”.
However, Ms Lam countered the law was being violated and “very clear evidence” would be brought to court.
Ms Lam defended the arrest of senior executives of the newspaper and called the criticism of Beijing as “double standards”.
She also defended freezing assets of Apple Daily by calling it an “international norm” to further prevent activities that endanger national security.”
The newspaper has it will take a decision on Friday on whether or not to close the publication.