Headlined “No One Is Safe In Hong Kong”, the editorial published on December 29 criticised the closure of Stand News, the arrests of seven people linked to the now-defunct website, and the levying of further charges against Apple Daily executives.
In a rebuttal published on Monday, the chief secretary responded by saying: “your baseless allegations against Hong Kong are, in your own words, ‘reaching new levels of nastiness'”.
He said that the recent arrests had nothing to do with press freedom and were made under the Crimes Ordinance for alleged conspiracy to publish seditious publication.
Lee said that freedom of speech and press are protected under the Basic Law and the national security law.
He also wrote that the WSJ was wrong to claim that the authorities imposed “trumped up charges” or froze assets “without due process”, saying law enforcement agencies acted in accordance with the law.
The chief secretary rejected as false and “appalling” an assertion in the editorial that last month’s Legco elections were “rigged”.
He signed off by saying that with peace and stability restored, Hong Kong is back on track, and that the SAR will continue to be an “internationally preferred place for business”.
Last month, Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Erick Tsang sent two letters to the same newspaper, responding to editorials concerning the Legco elections.