Police officers stand guard outside Apple Daily headquarters as the newspaper founder Jimmy Lai is arrested by police at his home in Hong Kong on Aug 10, 2020. (VINCENT YU/AP)
Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian on Friday lambasted some US politicians for applying double standards when criticizing the arrests by Hong Kong police of five people in charge of local tabloid Apple Daily under the National Security Law.
"Hong Kong is a city of rule of law and all are equal before the law. No one, nor any organizations, are beyond or above the law. That means no rights or freedoms, including press freedom, can cross the red line of national security," Zhao said.
Hong Kong is a city of rule of law and all are equal before the law. No one, nor any organizations, are beyond or above the law. That means no rights or freedoms, including press freedom, can cross the red line of national security.
Zhao Lijian, Chinese Foreign Ministry's spokesperson
His remarks came after Hong Kong police arrested on Thursday morning five executives of Apple Daily and its parent company Next Digital, for allegedly conspiring to invite foreign sanctions against the city and the nation in dozens of its reports.
On Friday afternoon, the police pressed charges against Apple Daily Editor-in-Chief Ryan Law Wai-kwong and Next Digital CEO Cheung Kim-hung for the offense of collusion with a foreign country or with external elements to endanger national security. Both men will be brought to West Kowloon Magistrates' Courts on Saturday morning.
The other three－Next Digital Chief Operating Officer Chow Tat-kuen, the paper's Deputy Chief Editor Chan Pui-man and Chief Executive Editor Cheung Chi-wai－were detained for further investigation.
Following the arrest, some Western countries, including the United States and the United Kingdom, called for the release of the five.
The spokesperson for the Office of the Commissioner of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of China in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region said such demands are "a malicious obstruction of the Hong Kong SAR's law enforcement authorities' performance of duty" and an assault on Hong Kong's rule of law and judicial independence, an insult to the spirit of the rule of law, and flagrant interference in Hong Kong affairs, which are China's internal affairs.
READ MORE: 'Press freedom' not a shield for lawbreakers
The spokesperson said external forces are in no position to make groundless accusations, as they have "frequently restricted lawful journalistic activities on national security grounds, clamped down on voices for justice, churned out fake news and vilified other countries".
Facts have proved time and again that the freedom they advocate is the freedom to interfere in other countries' internal affairs, and freedom to collude with anti-China troublemakers messing up Hong Kong in order to sabotage Hong Kong's prosperity and stability, the spokesperson said.
Leung Chun-ying, vice-chairman of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, shared similar sentiments.
"No one is above the law. No one is above national security laws. This applies to the press and is part of the definition of press freedom. Anyone who has any doubt about this universal principle could test it against the US or British authorities," Leung said in one of his social media posts.
With the great freedom enjoyed by Hong Kong people comes the great responsibility to protect national sovereignty and development interests, he said.
Solicitor Raymond Li Kin-ho agreed. He said that the freedom of press is a qualified right that is accompanied by the duty and responsibility to respect public order and not to endanger national security.
Barrister Lawrence Ma Yan-kwok said the police's action has a legal basis and is totally lawful. Any rights and freedom conferred by the Basic Law are not absolute and should conform to the law, he said.
Noting that the rule of law is the core value of the city, Maggie Chan Man-ki, founding president of the Small and Medium Law Firms Association of Hong Kong, said that all institutions and individuals in Hong Kong have the legal responsibility to safeguard national security and act in accordance with the law, which is crucial to the long-term prosperity and stability of the city.
HONG KONG NEWS