Pro-Beijing Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam hit back at the United States on June 22, accusing U.S. officials of trying to “beautify” actions that endangered national security.
Lam was responding to U.S. criticism of the Hong Kong government’s actions against local pro-democracy tabloid Apple Daily in her weekly press conference. On June 17, some 500 Hong Kong police raided Apple Daily’s headquarters and arrested five directors of the newspaper.
Three of the directors were released on bail on June 18. Two others, Ryan Law, the paper’s editor-in-chief, and Cheung Kim-hung, chief executive officer of the paper’s publishing arm Next Digital, appeared in court on June 19 but were denied bail. Law and Cheung are charged with “collusion with a foreign country or with external elements to endanger national security,” a crime under the city’s draconian national security law.
Hong Kong authorities also froze about HK$18 million ($2.32 million) from three companies linked to Apple Daily. The move has left the paper in a financial crunch and Apple Daily has requested the Hong Kong government’s security bureau unfreeze its bank accounts and assets.
The Hong Kong government and Beijing have since drawn international criticism over the raid and arrests. On June 17, U.S. State Department spokesperson Ned Price said the collusion charges were “politically motivated.” He added that it was deplorable that Hong Kong police would use some Apple Daily articles as evidence, since “exchanging views with foreigners in journalism should never be a crime.”
Lam rebuffed Price’s statement and accused the United States of having “double standards.” She also said the Hong Kong authorities’ actions could not be described as suppressing press freedom.
“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,” Lam said.
When asked about unfreezing Apple Daily’s assets, Lam said the decision was up to John Lee, Hong Kong’s security secretary.
BY FRANK FANG