Beijing on Friday urged Washington to stop interfering in the affairs of Hong Kong Special Administrative Region on the pretext of press freedom, saying that the latest statement issued by the White House on Apple Daily is "utterly groundless".
On Saturday, three Apple Daily companies and two of their executives were prosecuted for breaching the national security law in Hong Kong in the West Kowloon Magistrates' Courts.
"The United States should respect facts, stop using any excuse to obstruct the law enforcement by the HKSAR government and stop covering up for the suspects," Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said at a regular news briefing in Beijing.
Zhao said that the national security law for the HKSAR, which was approved last year, mainly targets a small handful of criminals committing activities endangering national security.
It guarantees the rights and freedoms that the vast majority of Hong Kong residents enjoy according to law, including media freedom, he said.
"If anyone claims it is a repression of 'media freedom' just because the party involved in the case is a certain news agency and the suspects are its executives, they are either pretending to be unaware of the truth or deliberately confounding right with wrong out of ulterior motives," Zhao said.
The Office of the Commissioner of the Foreign Ministry in the HKSAR said in a statement on Friday that the key problem in Hong Kong is whether national security shall be defended, whether law and order shall be upheld, and whether crimes shall be punished in accordance with the law.
All these have nothing to do with media freedom, the office said.
According to the office, both Hong Kong citizens and the US side know very well that the nature of Apple Daily is a rumor mill inciting unrest in Hong Kong and China as a whole.
"Press freedom should not be exploited as an excuse for criminal activities, still less a fig leaf for acts to destabilize Hong Kong and China at large," it said.
The office said the US betrays its own hypocrisy, double standards and hegemonic mindset by citing so-called media freedom against others while it flagrantly targeted media agencies of other countries.
"We urge the US side to stop distorting 'one country, two systems', stop vilifying the central government's Hong Kong policy, and stop assaulting the HKSAR's rule of law," it said.