Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying has denied that his legal threats against Chinese-language newspaper Apple Daily contradict the principle of press freedom.

Leung was asked whether he was concerned that his legal letter to Apple Daily would affect the freedom of the press on Tuesday. He said: “These things depend on their impact. If the impact is significant, there will be a need for clarification.”

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Leung Chun-ying. File

“Press freedom and the press’ responsibility to report facts comprehensively – the two are not mutually exclusive,” he said.

The chief executive said that the Australian newspaper that reported on his secret payment from Australian Corporation UGL two years ago had clarified “the nature of the matter” a week later. He claimed the paper “basically retracted their original framing” that he and the company had struck secret deals after documents revealed that “all relevant parties were aware of the agreement.”

Leung added that he has never used public money to pay for legal fees on defamation lawsuits.

He was also asked why he did not send legal threats to Sing Pao, the pro-Beijing local newspaper that has run several front pages since August denouncing the chief executive and the China Liaison Office – Beijing’s representative body in Hong Kong – for alleged corruption. Leung declined to comment.

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Apple front page on September 30.

See also: CY’s spin doctor says legal letter sent to Apple Daily ‘out of necessity’; has ‘confidence in winning’ case

Last week, Leung sent a letter through his lawyers to Apple Daily, claiming that the tabloid had defamed him by publishing an editorial which accused him of corruption over a HK$50 million secret payment from UGL. He also objected to name-calling by the paper and asked it to retract the editorial and cease publishing allegations of corruption.

Leung previously sent a letter in 2013 to veteran commentator Joseph Lian Yi-zheng, claiming that a commentary piece he had written accused Leung of having links with triads and asking for the piece to be retracted.

The Hong Kong Journalists Association has criticised Leung’s action of “intentionally targeting the media.” In April, they stated that Leung shows a lack of respect towards press freedom.

Ellie Ng has written for Foreign Policy, the Daily Telegraph, Global Voices Online and others.