OPINIONS Press freedom no excuse for collusion with foreign powers


Press freedom no excuse for collusion with foreign powers


22:18, June 18, 2021

Photo taken on July 14, 2020 shows the Golden Bauhinia Square in south China's Hong Kong. (Photo: Xinhua)

The arrest of five top executives of Apple Daily was necessary to protect against destabilizing foreign forces and it is not the end of press freedom in Hong Kong as some Western media have hyped.

The five suspects were not arrested for their political opinions. Rather, they were arrested for colluding with external elements to endanger national security.

Senior Superintendent of Hong Kong police Steve Li Kwai told reporters that Apple Daily had published more than 30 pieces calling for foreign countries or institutions to impose sanctions on the Chinese mainland and the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR).

This steps over the line of journalism into sedition. Publishing these articles was a deliberate effort to feed the international perception that Hong Kong residents supported the efforts of young rioters to bring the economy of the city to a halt.

Indeed, foreign powers notoriously tried to paint the violence as "a beautiful thing," even though a vast majority of Hong Kong residents wanted to end the chaos and get back to work. Only a radical fringe in Hong Kong is interested in separating from China – an impossible goal with unclear supposed benefits that would certainly destroy the local economy.

However, the goal of separatism is being pushed by malign foreign forces that want to create chaos in China to slow its rise.

Helping these foreign actors hurt China by giving them ammunition to impose sanctions on China amounts to betraying the motherland. The calls for sanctions published by Apple Daily clearly violated Article 29 of the national security law.

Ryan Law (R2), Apple Daily's editor-in-chief, is arrested by police officers in Hong Kong, south China, June 17, 2021. (Photo: CFP)

Western powers, of course, are declaring that the arrest of these five executives means the "end of freedom of the press" in Hong Kong.

Indeed, a debate on what the arrests mean for press freedom is continuing to take place in the pages of Hong Kong’s freewheeling media.

The important point is that these five executives were not arrested for their opinions, or for publishing facts the authorities did not like.

They were arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to collude with foreign forces. This was part of a larger campaign by Apple Daily to advocate for the anti-government forces that used violence to ground the city to a halt. Make no mistake, Apple Daily went beyond reporting on facts. It was not acting as a news source.

Chinese media are free to go about normal journalistic activities. Nonetheless, journalists are not above the law and must be held accountable for breaking the law.

Absolute media freedom, where journalists can make any claim regardless of its truth or falsehood, is a trap and a dead end. Just see the result in a country like the United States. As many American commentators have noted, the country is now divided to the point of paralysis, with politically-driven media creating different realities.

Americans can't even agree on basic facts, such as whether masks help prevent COVID-19, whether climate change is real, and who won the last election.

This is a direct result of U.S. journalism and social media outlets being infected by partisan politics unconstrained by patriotism or fealty to the truth. If this is what the U.S. means by freedom of the press, other nations are not interested.

When China takes legitimate actions under its national security law, the U.S. uses the slogan "freedom of speech" to stir up trouble. But no one is fooled. It is obvious that America's ultimate role is to bring trouble to China. American allies follow its lead for the sake of being politically correct.

Apple Daily arrests were about foreign efforts to hurt China, not press freedom.

Hong Kong reporters have nothing to worry about if they concentrate on reporting the facts and stay away from advocating positions that hurt China's national security.

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