US ‘beautifying’ crime with Apple Daily remarks: CE

Carrie Lam has accused the United States of “beautifying” acts that endanger national security with its criticism of the Hong Kong authorities’ crackdown on Apple Daily, saying the territory’s national security law must be enforced.

The chief executive told a weekly press briefing that the legislation is in place to prevent, stop and punish acts that endanger national security, as well to provide a deterrent effect.

“We won’t let this law be treated as if it doesn’t exist,” Lam said.

She insisted that the arrest of several senior Apple Daily executives last week had nothing to do with journalism and the move cannot be described as suppression of press freedom.

“What is normal journalistic work? I think you are in a better position to answer that question,” she told reporters before she went into Tuesday’s Executive Council meeting, adding that the security law is “very well-defined.”

The authorities’ action against Apple Daily – which includes the prosecution of two executives for “conspiracy to collude with foreign elements” – has drawn international condemnation.

US State Department spokesman Ned Price said Washington was “broadly concerned by increased efforts by authorities to use this tool [national security law] to suppress independent media, to silence dissenting voices, to stifle freedom of expression.”

But the Hong Kong leader said this accusation is “wrong”, referring specifically to the Apple Daily case.

“What we are talking about is not exchanging views between journalists and foreigners. It’s violating the law as defined in the national security law and based on very clear evidence which will bring the case to court,” Lam claimed.

“So 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 … All those accusations made by the US government, I am afraid, are wrong,” she continued.

With Apple Daily’s assets frozen as part of the national security probe, it has told its staff that the newspaper will fold by the weekend unless its money is released.

Lam said Security Secretary John Lee will act in accordance with the law when he processes an application from the paper to unfreeze the assets, and the employees’ interests will also be protected if they are affected.

An Apple Daily reporter at Lam’s press briefing on Tuesday was not picked to ask a question.