Stand News acting chief editor Patrick Lam (2nd left, foreground) is brought to the news outlet's office building in handcuffs after police were deployed to search the premises in Hong Kong's Kwun Tong district on Dec 29, 2021.
(DANIEL SUEN / AFP)
Social dignitaries from Hong Kong’s various sectors stood in solidarity on Friday to back the city police’s arrest of seven people on suspicion of conspiracy to publish seditious publications.
The arrests were made by the Police Force’s National Security Department on Wednesday morning. The arrested, including six former executives of Stand News and a former executive of the now-defunct Apple Daily, are suspected of violating Sections 9 and 10 of the Crimes Ordinance. Two of the arrested — Stand News acting editor-in-chief Patrick Lam Shiu-tung and former editor-in-chief Chung Pui-kuen — were subsequently brought before the court. Both were denied bail.
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Stand News has ceased operations of its website and social media page, and it dismissed all its employees on Wednesday.
Secretary for Justice Teresa Cheng said it has been well-established that journalists cannot be exempted from their duty to comply with criminal law
In a post on her government blog on Friday, Justice Secretary Teresa Cheng Yeuk-wah said that rights come with responsibilities, and freedom of expression is no exception. While press freedom and freedom of speech should be respected and protected, they are not absolute, she added.
Cheng said it has been well-established that journalists cannot be exempted from their duty to comply with criminal law.
She added that journalists are entitled to the protection of the freedom of expression as long as they act in good faith and on an accurate factual basis, and provide reliable and precise information in accordance with the tenets of responsible journalism.
Cheng said the boundary between genuine journalistic activities and offenses that endanger national security is clear.
Former Sing Tao News Corp Ltd chairman Charles Ho Tsu-kwok said news reporting should be balanced, unbiased and fact-based. It is not OK to report fake news or incite others to break the law, he added.
“Journalists are not uncrowned kings and can’t do whatever they want,” Ho said.
In supporting the police’s action against Stand News, Ho said he believes that it will not impair the press freedom in the city as the defendants will have their chance to defend themselves in court.
Also expressing support for the police was the Hong Kong Coalition, founded by over 1,500 heavyweights from various sectors of the Hong Kong society. The coalition denounced Stand News for ruining the city’s rule of law and social order, and endangering national security in the name of news reporting.
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Stand News had continued to publish seditious articles despite the implementation of the National Security Law for Hong Kong, which is of grave concern, the coalition said in a statement on Friday.
The group expressed firm support for the police to act in accordance with the law to crack down on similar illegal activities to safeguard national security and Hong Kong’s stability, in order to maintain the sustainable implementation of the “one country, two systems” principle, the statement continued.