National security law for HK cannot be 'empty shell' and press freedom no ‘amulet:’ Lam and mainland officials on Apple Daily fate
Published: Jun 22, 2021 12:16 PM


Chief executive of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) government Carrie Lam said on Tuesday the national security law for Hong Kong is not an empty shell, and freezing assets is international practice to prevent relevant people from using them to endanger national security. 

"Freedom of the press" is not an amulet, and there are no extrajudicial rights to incite secessionism and cause chaos in Hong Kong, echoed the spokesperson of the Office of the Commissioner of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of China in the HKSAR on the same day.

With Apple Daily, a pro-secession tabloid under Next Digital, facing shortages of funds after some of its senior executives were arrested on suspicion of violating the national security law and HK$18 million ($2.3 million) of its assets were frozen, the board of the company founded by Jimmy Lai Chee-ying held a meeting on Monday to decide on a complete shutdown on Friday. Given that many of Apple Daily's staff have already left, the paper could halt operations as early as Wednesday. 

The board also applied to Hong Kong's Security Bureau to unfreeze its assets in order to pay wages to its staff members. 

Lam said the latest operation has nothing to do with normal journalistic work, as it targets activities suspected of endangering national security. "We can't say that because the case involves a media outlet and the people in charge, it strikes press freedom, and those in charge can't use the press as a shield to violate the law. Everyone is equal in front the law," the chief executive said.  

The police enforced the law in accordance with the law and the Secretary for Security was empowered to freeze the relevant assets over suspicions of violations of the national security law for Hong Kong, which aims to prevent further acts endangering national security. If there are any labor disputes following the freezing of assets, authorities will provide the staff adequate legal assistance no matter where they come from. 

The police's action is based on sufficient evidence, and the prosecution process is up to the Department of Justice, which won't tolerate interference by any forces, Lam said, noting that the purpose of the national security law is to have a deterrent effect on society. 

The Office of the Commissioner of the Chinese FM also noted in a statement that the police's actions were just actions to combat crimes under the law and have nothing to do with violating the "freedom of the press." 

"The law enforcement and judicial organs of the SAR have followed the legal procedures to handle the cases impartially and strictly in accordance with the provisions of the law, and no external forces have the right to say anything," stated the Office. 

After some people have repeatedly obstructed the HKSAR's law enforcement and sought to excuse the suspects under the guise of freedom of the press, the office warned, "No matter how pretentious these tricks are, they are doomed to fail!" 

In response to the latest comments made by the US officials on the case of Apple Daily, Lam said the claims of the US side are completely false, as exchanging views with foreigners does not apply to the Apple Daily case, which involves violation of the national security law. On the matter of national security, foreign governments hold double standards on China and its HKSAR, Lam said. 

US State Department spokesman Ned Price recently denounced the arrests of Apple Daily senior figures and the raid on the office, saying "exchanging views with foreigners in journalism" should never be a crime.