Tian Feilong: End of Apple Daily Marks New Start of “HK-Style Freedom of Speech”

Tian Feilong: End of Apple Daily Marks New Start of “HK-Style Freedom of Speech”
Original: https://news.mingpao.com/pns/%e8%a7%80%e9%bb%9e/article/20210628/s00012/1624817933988/%e7%94%b0%e9%a3%9b%e9%be%8d-%e8%98%8b%e6%9e%9c%e7%9a%84%e7%b5%82%e9%bb%9e-%e6%98%af%e6%b8%af%e5%bc%8f%e8%a8%80%e8%ab%96%e8%87%aa%e7%94%b1%e7%9a%84%e6%96%b0%e8%b5%b7%e9%bb%9e 
on 28 June 2021, Ming Pao Daily 

Apple Daily did not make it to the Party's centennial celebration on 1 July and officially collapsed on 25 June (the last issue was published on 24 June). The final moment of Apple Daily triggered public sentiment and even "sympathy" inside and outside of Hong Kong. Foreign powers "mourned" Apple "with their eyes closed", disregarding any legal facts and due process. They believe the National Security Law (NSL) caused all of this and that it is the NSL that killed Apple Daily, suppressed the so-called Hong Kong-style freedom of speech and press freedom, and caused a "chilling effect" in Hong Kong's democratic environment. They questioned the regulatory quality of the NSL, saying that the charge was "vague" and authoritarian.

These criticisms, which rely on Western "universal values" and “standards of the rule of law”, are quite inflammatory and confusing at first glance, and if placed in the context of the 2019 protests, they may again incite an extremely large-scale "Apple” storm. However, with the NSL in place, this will definitely not come.

Anyone with a basic conscience, historical memory, and common sense in law would understand that the NSL is a law that protects "one country, two systems" and all the rights and freedoms it promises, including, naturally, the protection of freedom of speech and freedom of the press. The NSL truly reclaims the "state" in the context of "one country, two systems" and gives the power of the state an institutional foothold in the day-to-day governance of Hong Kong.

The spokesperson of the Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office of the State Council issued a statement on 25 June regarding the distorted comments of foreign media and foreign forces involved in the Apple Daily incident. It points out that the police enforcement and judicial procedures under the NSL are fully in line with the standards of the rule of law in Hong Kong, and that the crackdown is on criminal acts suspected of endangering national security by the organizations involved, not on freedom of speech and freedom of the press. Further, no freedom of speech and freedom of the press are separated from the law. The spokesperson called for attention to specific facts and legal principles, and cited basic facts such as the stronger protection of Hong Kong residents' rights and freedoms since the implementation of the NSL, and the increased presence of media organizations in Hong Kong, to counter the distortions made by foreign media and foreign powers.

Similar official statements and explanations of facts and jurisprudence have been made many times since the implementation of the NSL and China has done its best to explain and explain each time. But the explanations fall on deaf ears.

When Jimmy Lai and the "Apple faction" were steadily identified by Western forces as "their own", every specific law enforcement action and judicial trial seemed to evolve into a dry and uninteresting struggle over "universal values". Every time we review our own propaganda and discourse in accordance with the rule of law and democratic framework, we find we are still not understood by the West, cannot change the West’s rhetoric and our lower hand in the entire matter.

In fact, the West does not care about the facts and the sincerity of our explanations and only distorts and pressurises us by virtue of their so-called hegemonic advantage. They want to manipulate the truth and justice and politicise and stigmatise China. They know they have trampled on basic facts and legal principles but all they care about is that there is still a large number of countries and people cheering for them as they approach their demise.

The public opinion struggle and legal battle triggered by the Apple Daily incident cut to the heart of the new Cold War between China and the United States, exposing the "hegemonic" undertones of Western human rights and democratic discourse, as well as the confusion and shortcomings of a declining Western power.

In the long term, the Western discourse is bound to weaken with their decline. The continued rise of China, the ability to prevent and control the new epidemic, the contradictory logic and misplaced practice of the Trump/Biden doctrine, and third-party forces getting neutral or slowly siding with China are all factors that are dismantling the West and further exacerbating its illogical and disorderly behaviour.

But the world is still in the midst of helpless chaos. From facts to values, from remarks to a say on the global stage, from ethnicity to universality, from the right to development to equality and dignity, from the "orientalisation trap" to the centre of the world stage, endurance, the combination of knowledge and action, collective strive and determination to breakthrough form an inevitable path for us. We still have the duty and responsibility to continue to explain clearly to the nation and the world what the NSL is, why the "Apple faction" has fallen, and what the future freedom of Hong Kong will be.

We need to return to the basic facts and the process of institutional change to discuss the issues.

First, the 30-year history of the "Apple faction" is from a small local tabloid to the "first agent" of foreign powers. The history of the newspaper is a perfect microcosm of Hong Kong's own political history and we can trace its long-term threat of "endangering national security".

Secondly, since Hong Kong's reunification, the loophole for Article 23 [Security] legislation has been unplugged and the "Apple faction" has been radically opposed to the Basic Law and mobilised a "colour revolution" using the gaps and grey areas under the Basic Law.

Third, the key to the success of the "Apple faction" is not the legitimate enjoyment of press freedom and journalistic professionalism, but the excessive politicised manipulation and the excessive exaltation and assistance from external forces, which is, in essence, a subversive "political organization" in the name of a news organization.

Fourth, during Occupy Central in 2014 and the anti-extradition protests in 2019, the "Apple faction" colluded internally and externally, incited lawlessness and violence, produced a large number of "fake news", and requested foreign powers to sanction Hong Kong and China, and was the vanguard of anti-China sentiments and against Hong Kong. They seriously undermined the rule of law in Hong Kong, everyone's personal safety, freedom and rights, tarnished the law-abiding ethic of Hong Kong's democratic culture and movement and posed serious damage.

Fifth, with the enactment of the NSL in 2020, the grey areas of the past abuses of press freedom have been clarified in law. The "Apple faction" has ignored the new law and continued to engage in anti-China and anti-Hong Kong activities, and eventually violated the law with criminal prosecution repercussions.

The fall of the "Apple faction" is the result of a long history of endangering national security, undermining the prosperity and stability of Hong Kong, and directly violating the norms of national security law. Everyone who understands and accepts modern rule of law will agree with this conclusion. However, the Americans, the Europeans do not agree with their double standards and in reality, humiliates their own rule of law and values of democracy.

Originally. the modern Western hegemony had coercion and virtues, resulting from competition amongst civilisations. But in today’s West, virtue is decreasing and strong-arm coercion is increasing. A typical example is the US, degenerating from liberal imperialism to "sanctions" imperialism.

In the case of Hong Kong, Xinjiang, and China's economic, trade and high-tech development, the remaining "virtues" [moral high ground] of the West are almost non-existent. On the surface, the banners of Western discourse and sanctions still have some compelling and destructive power. However, in reality, it is a sign of internal crisis and decline of Western civilisation and a manifestation of its inability to live up to its own principles and virtues, and to stick up to propriety and virtues.

Apple Daily has incited "local laam chaau” (mutual-destruction-style “localism”), forced shops to support the "Revolution of the Times”, encouraged and condoned the riot violence of the youth, and colluded with external forces to promote a "Hong Kong version of colour revolution". This is using the social rift arising from the anti-ELAB storm and the negative sentiment against China to boost confrontation between the government and the people, causing a post-election usurping of power.

This has pushed Hong Kong’s democratic movement into an abyss of radicalism and misled the people. The protest violence and "freedom of the press" is the beautiful backdrop claimed by American politicians, but they completely ignored the "chilling effect" caused by the movement and the damage to the freedom of speech of those with different opinions.

At that time, Hong Kong's "Article 23" was lacking and local law and order was not sufficiently enforced. The courts were unable to provide strong decisions to stop violence and control chaos, and individual judges even had the wrong judicial orientation to praise the rioters. However, Western politicians praise and promote this riot violence without realising or deliberately missing that such freedom is not moral freedom at all, but rather a "terrorist" act that the US itself suffers from. The NSL punishes only such "riot violence” and is just and powerful.

The NSL has done its job, the "Apple faction" has got what it deserves, and justice and the rule of law are being rapidly re-established in Hong Kong. Only after getting rid of riot violence can all the rights and freedoms in Hong Kong be protected and effectively exercised by law. Instead of mourning the fall of Apple Daily, Western politicians should review the evil in their hearts and the internal collapse of Western civilisation, and seek ways of cooperation and renewal between Eastern and Western civilisations. Otherwise, the West will eventually fail with zero virtue, leading to an unpleasant destiny and demise.

The end of Apple Daily is a symbolic event in which the national security defects of Hong Kong's rule of law and the lack of the "one country, two systems" system are effectively remedied, and it is a brand-new starting point for Hong Kong-style freedom of speech and freedom of the press. From now on, the freedom of speech of different groups in Hong Kong can be expressed without incitement or fear, different news organisations can report facts and monitor the government within the scope of legal protection, and people can engage in rational discussions and democratic participation on institutional and policy issues, and receive timely responses from the SAR government and the Central Government. Such Hong Kong-style freedom of speech, freedom of the press and democracy are what the NSL aims to pursue and protect, and what the "one country, two systems" institutional system is designed to regulate.

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