Hong Kong’s leader has accused “anti-China” forces of threatening national security under the cover of the media, days after Western activists and politicians urged local authorities to free tycoon Jimmy Lai Chee-ying who has been in jail for more than 1,000 days.
Speaking at a National Day reception organised by the media, Lee urged Hongkongers to remain vigilant against any forces that aimed to damage the city.
“Recently, some anti-China and anti-Hong Kong forces staged some shows concerning Hong Kong press freedom on international occasions,” Lee said, accusing those “anti-China and anti-Hong Kong forces” of making up “a new lie”.
“As long as you have donned the coat of media, no matter how many crimes that a person has committed, you can do nothing about them.
“On the other hand, they could accuse you of invading press freedom, even though they have long planned to use the identity of the media to cover up crimes or even threaten national security.
“For any person or organisation that has committed a crime, regardless of their background or occupation, we will combat them vigorously.”
Earlier on Thursday, the government said it “strongly disapproved of and firmly rejected the baseless remarks, slanders and smears” made by the United Kingdom and other countries at an event on media freedom in Hong Kong.
Organised by the British government and co-sponsored by at least 20 other countries, the event was held in Geneva on Wednesday as part of the meeting of the United Nations Human Rights Council.
The Congressional-Executive Commission on China, an agency of the United States government, also urged Hong Kong authorities to release Lai. Reporters Without Borders and the Committee to Protect Journalists also joined the call.
The Commissioner’s Office of China’s Foreign Ministry in Hong Kong on Wednesday also “strongly disapproved of and firmly rejected the irresponsible comments” of the US government and a small number of American and British politicians that had shown support for Lai.
On Tuesday, the government also issued a statement to “strongly condemn and oppose the misleading and slanderous remarks” by various overseas organisations and media against the law enforcement actions and legal proceedings related to Lai.
It said the remarks constituted “blatant political interference in the internal affairs” of Hong Kong and the independent exercise of judicial power by local courts.
Lai is expected to stand trial on December 18 on charges of sedition and conspiracy to collude with foreign forces. He has spent all but eight days in custody since December 3, 2020.