SHANGHAI (REUTERS) – The police raid on Hong Kong media organisation Stand News this week was “completely lawful and beyond reproach”, said a spokesman with the Chinese embassy in Britain, hitting back at foreign criticism of the move.
The embassy spokesman was responding to comments by Ms Amanda Milling, British Minister of State for Asia, who said on Twitter that the actions “further erode freedom of speech in Hong Kong”.
In response, China’s embassy said late on Thursday: “The rights and interests of Hong Kong residents, including freedom of speech and freedom of the press, are safeguarded in accordance with the law.
“The Chinese side once again urges the UK to right its wrongs and stop interfering in any form in Hong Kong affairs, which are China’s internal affairs.”
Two former senior editors of Stand News were charged with conspiring to publish seditious materials and denied bail by a court on Thursday, a day after a police raid on the pro-democracy media organisation that prompted its closure.
About 200 officers raided the online publication’s office, froze its assets and arrested seven current and former senior editors as well as former board members – including singer and activist Denise Ho – on Wednesday.
United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken accused China and Hong Kong of silencing independent media and called on authorities to immediately release the arrested Stand News staff.
But the official Communist Party newspaper, the People’s Daily, said in an editorial on Friday that “freedom of the press” was being used as an excuse to sow “anti-China chaos” in Hong Kong. It accused foreign politicians of “recklessly discrediting” Hong Kong police.
“Under the cloak of a media organisation, Stand News is essentially a political organisation through and through,” it said.
“Freedom has a bottom line, and violations of the law must be punished.”
On Thursday, Hong Kong’s government denies targeting the media and curbing its freedoms. Chief Executive Carrie Lam said the action against Stand News was aimed at seditious activity.
“These actions have nothing to do with so-called suppression of press freedom,” she told reporters. “Journalism is not seditious…but seditious activities could not be condoned under the guise of news reporting.”