The Hong Kong government has slammed a report by a UK all-party parliamentary group that said the Beijing-imposed national security law had been used to “stifle free media and target individual journalists, which has crushed freedom of expression and media pluralism in Hong Kong.”
The report, titled “Media Freedom in Hong Kong: the case of Jimmy Lai and Apple Daily,” was published by the UK All-Party Parliamentary Group on Hong Kong earlier this month. The group began an inquiry in February into press freedom in Hong Kong, and on the national security case against pro-democracy media tycoon Jimmy Lai.
Lai has been prosecuted under the security law and the colonial-era sedition law. He faces four charges, including two counts of conspiracy to collude with foreign forces, one count of collusion with foreign forces, and one charge linked to alleged seditious publications. His trial will resume in September.
Apple Daily, a pro-democracy tabloid founded by Lai, folded in June 2021 after the arrests of multiple staff members. The media tycoon has been remanded in custody since December 2020, and was sentenced to five years and nine months in jail over a fraud case last December.
The UK report, urged the British government to treat Lai, whom it described as a “political prisoner,” as a “political priority.”
“This includes applying pressure for his release, and deeming his current arrest as arbitrary detention,” the report read.
“The current situation in Hong Kong is a glaring violation of the Joint Declaration that was meant to preserve human rights guarantees cherished by the UK Government,” the report read.
The Hong Kong government expressed its rejection and disapproval of “the so-called report” in a statement published on Tuesday night.
The report “made fact-twisting remarks” and smeared the security law “under the guise of press freedom,” the administration said.
“The HKSAR Government firmly opposes the relevant UK politicians’ repeated malicious slander against the [national security law] in attempts of interfering in Hong Kong’s law-based governance and undermining the rule of law of Hong Kong,” said a government spokesperson in the statement.
“With politics overriding the rule of law, the so-called report by these politicians is full of fallacious remarks. Such attempts to undermine the stability and prosperity of Hong Kong only expose their own weakness and faulty arguments, and are doomed to fail.”
The government also said that freedom of speech and press freedom of the city were protected under the security legislation and the Basic Law.
“Indeed, since the implementation of the [national security law], the media landscape in Hong Kong has been as vibrant as ever,” the statement read.
“As always, the media can exercise their right to monitor the HKSAR Government’s work. Their freedom of commenting on and criticising government policies, which take place as a matter of routine, remains uninhibited as long as they are not in violation of the law.”