The first priority of the press is to ensure stability, propaganda chief tells a visiting delegation of news executives A top state official yesterday called on Hong Kong's media to be constructive and socially responsible in their criticisms of the special administrative region's government. The comments from Li Changchun, a Standing Committee member of the Politburo, were made to a delegation from the Hong Kong Newspaper Society, the first formal meeting since he assumed responsibility for propaganda and the media 'While maintaining press freedom, the media should at the same time be concerned about social responsibility,' Mr Li said, noting that Hong Kong's press freedoms had continued since the handover. 'Their starting point should be Hong Kong's overall interests and the maintaining of Hong Kong's prosperity and stability. The media should exercise its positive effect in this respect by supporting the chief executive and the special administrative region government. 'There has to be criticisms because the media also plays a watchdog role. But criticisms must be constructive. You criticise because you want to be constructive.' The Hong Kong press was free to criticise the Communist Party within the city under 'one country, two systems'. But such a freedom would not apply to publishing ventures on the mainland, he added. During the meeting in the Great Hall of the People, Mr Li told the delegation it was important for Hong Kong media to abide by the mainland's law and constitution for them to gain entry to the mainland market. 'We cannot require Hong Kong media to apply the mainland's standards in Hong Kong. But Hong Kong media [going into the mainland] must operate in accordance with the law. Under this premise, co-operation could be expanded,' Mr Li said. Lee Cho-jat, chairman of the newspaper society, said the delegation was told that supporting communist rule was an important core component in Chinese constitution and laws. Mr Li said more co-operation between Hong Kong and mainland media was possible under the framework of 'one country, two systems', although China had no obligation to allow foreign investment in the media under World Trade Organisation rules. Yuen Kee-wang, of the Hong Kong Federation of Journalists, said Mr Li's comments seemed fair. 'As to his views about the role of the media in Hong Kong, he may hold whatever views he has, but as long as he or other officials do not put their fingers in Hong Kong matters, it is all right for him to express those views,' Mr Yuen said. 'We should watch the actions rather than words of officials.' The honorary secretary of the Hong Kong Journalists Association, Mak Yin-ting, said: 'It is unacceptable for Mr Li to praise the media, to say that we are very energetic and diligent to the public, but set prerequisites for us during a closed-door meeting with the news executives. 'He wants to influence; otherwise, what was the point of telling the bosses these comments?'