Press freedom cannot be cloak for sedition

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On Wednesday, the national security unit of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region police arrested seven executives or former executives or board members of Stand News on suspicion of publishing seditious publications.

Two have since been charged with conspiracy to publish seditious material, while the others are being detained for questioning.

As always, certain Western media outlets have blazoned “pro-democracy” in their reports, an old trick which they employed when Apple Daily had to shut down in June. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has “condemned” the deed, as he always does when Hong Kong police enforce the law against such activities.

But as Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said after the arrests, “These actions have nothing to do with so-called suppression of press freedom.” Journalism is not seditious, but as she rightly pointed out, seditious activities cannot be condoned under the guise of news reporting.

The central government’s Hong Kong Liaison Office, called Stand News an “out-and-out political organization” that “kept publishing articles that incited others to use violence and even split the country”.

It has published a number of articles calling for the lobbying of foreign governments so they would impose sanctions against China. And in May, it published an article that compared Hong Kong to¬† Northern Ireland and praised “lone wolf” terrorist attacks. On July 1, a man attacked and seriously wounded a police officer with a knife.

The use of press freedom as a cover for subversive activities has resulted in action taken by the police, as it would in Western countries.

Among the former board members who are being detained is Denis Ho Wan-see, a well-known singer. She does have quite a large number of followers, but celebrity status is no excuse for breaking the law. Nor do growing up in Canada and getting Canadian citizenship grant her any special privilege if she is charged and subsequently found guilty of any crime.

One specific detail in the news should attract attention, namely that a total of HK$61 million ($7.82 million) from the Stand News has been frozen, of which HK$500,000 is in cash. Since Stand News is a small media outlet that was set up in 2014 as a nonprofit organization and lacks advertisements, it raises the question of how it has obtained such a large sum of money. Is there any foreign support behind it? Has any foreign political force “donated” money to influence its reports?

All these questions need to be answered, and no doubt will be answered after a thorough investigation by the police. Meanwhile, the law enforcement action shows that anybody who engages in activities that endanger national security and undermine the rule of law and public order will be held accountable.

-The Daily Mail-China Daily News Exchange Item