Freedom cannot stand against rule of law

The collapse of Apple Daily is a response to the call of justice, common aspiration, and market demand.


Since the Hong Kong-based tabloid repeatedly violated law and morality, its operator and employees were punished by laws. Besides, its poor management also contributed a key reason for its closure.


However, some politicians from a few Western countries are unwilling to accept the failure of the anti-China organization they have supported. Under the disguise of the slogan “freedom of press,” they called defiance to justice and law as a “basic freedom,” trying to set roadblocks for Hong Kong’s rule of law.


What they have done is a blatant interference in Hong Kong affairs and China’s domestic affairs. We must solemnly point out that their practices have seriously violated international laws and the basic norms governing international relations are firmly opposed by all Chinese people and all the people in the world that uphold justice and impartiality.


Hong Kong is a law-based society where anti-China forces are never tolerated. The rhetoric slogan “freedoms of press and speech” used by some politicians from a few Western countries is never a shield that absolves them from their wrongful practices of encouraging people to undermine economic and social order and national security. It is perfectly justified to ensure that laws are observed and strictly enforced and that anyone who violates the law will be bring to justice.


Hong Kong citizens demand economic and social orders to be protected in accordance with the law, and they support the consolidation and improvement of the “one country, two systems” principle with legislation, in order to promote the stability and prosperity of the region. It is a mainstream public willingness, and not something that can be neglected by some biased politicians in a few Western countries.


For a while, these politicians have been pointing fingers at Hong Kong affairs and China’s domestic affairs, oppressing China with the “Hong Kong” card. However, what’s underneath the cover of the slogan “freedoms of press and speech” is their true intention to undermine Hong Kong’s rule of law. They are neither willing to accept the reality that turmoil in yesterday’s Hong Kong has now been conquered by rule of law, nor to see a prosperous future in the region.


In the early days of the Apple Daily, they expanded their sales by speculation, even at the cost of transgressing. Its paparazzi frequently peeked into the privacy of celebrities, which accumulated huge controversy. It has long been accused of defamation, spreading fake news and personal abuse by Hong Kong citizens. In 2019, it published a series of false reports to instigate public sentiment, that seriously undermined the rule of law of Hong Kong and the security of citizens.


A staff from a Hong Kong-based non-governmental organization that unmasks the fake news by Apple Daily noted that the newspaper has always been fabricating fake news in name of “freedom of press” to incite the young generation to go against laws, and oppose their country and government. It has also conducted illegal deals in collusion with foreign forces, according to the staff member, that accelerated its inevitable collapse. Legal professions in Hong Kong have also called to take legal actions against the newspaper many times.


Is there any country or region in the world where news and speeches can freely go against rule of laws? Some politicians from a few Western countries should seriously retrospect the laws in their countries.


The U.S. Constitution clearly forbids remarks on rumors, obscenity, terror and hatred, and there are specialized organizations under the U.S. government to monitor the media. The Federal Communications Commission of the U.S. is an organization that licenses American radio and TV stations and regulates their programs. The Supreme Court of the U.S. once noted that freedoms of speech and press do not permit a State to forbid advocacy of the use of force or of law violation except where such advocacy is directed to inciting or producing imminent lawless action and is likely to incite or produce such action.


In Germany, those who deny the Holocaust or incite hatred against certain ethnic groups can be sentenced to five years in prison at most. Social media platforms must timely respond to users’ complaints about illegal remarks and delete or block such remarks as appropriate. Those who fail to do so might face huge fines.


In France, those who hurt fundamental national interests, incite crimes, slander and spread fake news through media will be punished by laws.


Freedom cannot stand against rule of law. All fingers pointing on the case of Apple Daily by some politicians from a few Western countries exposed their double standard, as well as a lack of precise understanding of the reality and the mainstream willingness.


Hong Kong has returned to the motherland for 24 years. “Patriots governing Hong Kong” is a common aspiration of the people and conforms to the trend of the times. Some politicians from a few Western countries trying to contain China with the “Hong Kong card” and double standard will only fail in the end.


(Zhong Sheng is a pen name often used by People’s Daily to express its views on foreign policy.)