HONG KONG (Dispatches) — Foreign governments are “beautifying” acts that endanger national security in Hong Kong, the leader of the semiautonomous Chinese territory said Tuesday.
Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam’s comments come as some the U.S. and its allies characterize the arrest of editors and executives at U.S.-linked Apple Daily and the freezing of its assets as the latest examples of eroding freedoms in the former British colony.
Those arrested at the newspaper have been accused of breaching sweeping security legislation imposed by Beijing last year by colluding with foreign countries to endanger national security.
“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, which the foreign governments have taken so much to their heart,” Lam said.
Lam took particular aim at comments made by U.S. State Department spokesman Ned Price claiming Hong Kong authorities were using the law to suppress the media and silence dissent. Price said that “exchanging views with foreigners in journalism should never be a crime.”
“What we are talking about is not exchanging views between foreigners and journalists,” Lam said. “It is violating the law as defined in the National Security Law and based on very clear evidence which will bring the case to court.”
In a police operation last week, authorities arrested five Apple Daily editors and executives and froze $2.3 million worth of assets of three companies linked to the paper.
The newspaper and its executives were vocal supporters of the riots that roiled Hong Kong for months in 2019.
Lam’s remarks come as Beijing pushes back against Western accusations from the handling of the Covid-19 pandemic to China’s policies in Xinjiang region and Hong Kong, and posturing on Chinese Taipei and the South China Sea.
China’s top legislature — the National People’s Congress (NPC) standing committee — passed a new law to counter foreign sanctions as part of the country’s plan to defuse rising pressure from the United States and the European Union.
Beijing hoped for an improvement in relations under US President Joe Biden, who succeeded Donald Trump in January, but the new administration has shown no sign of backing down on hardline policies toward China.