Once again, little more than six months after the demise of Apple Daily and the arrest of its executives, the closure of a critical media outlet has raised questions fundamental to Hong Kong’s way of life. The chief executive and the chief secretary have emphatically denied that this week’s raid on Stand News and arrest of seven executives or directors, seizure of its assets and abrupt closure, have anything to do with press freedom. There are conflicting views, however, since it all appears to arise mainly from editorial content. Chief Secretary John Lee Ka-chiu’s point is that anyone perceived to be using the media as a tool to pursue their political purpose, particularly offences seen to endanger national security, is an enemy of press freedom. In other words, from that standpoint, they pervert press freedom. It is a tenuous position in one sense that reflects friction between core values enshrined in Hong Kong’s Basic Law – press freedom and the principle that no one is above the law whatever it says, both of which are affirmed by this publication. Lee’s comments are echoed by Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, who said foreign critics trampled on the rule of law, and Beijing’s commissioner for foreign affairs in Hong Kong, in rebuttal of mounting criticism from around the world of the latest raid, and the impact on press freedom. Stand News is accused of providing a platform for seditious material and calling for sanctions against China – or crossing a red line that delimits press freedom. Hong Kong leader says there is no media ‘suppression’ after Stand News arrests Another core Hong Kong value, cherished equally by people who live, work and do business here, is the rule of law, which underpins the principle that we are all equal before it. The Post has always argued that no one, including the press, can be above it, whether they like a particular law or not. That also means all must be equal in having access to legal protection. Press freedom remains enshrined in the Basic Law. The legitimate rights and freedoms of journalists and media organisations’ operations must not be limited in any way. Indeed, even when it comes to safeguarding national security, authorities need to realise that it is the responsibility of the press to criticise bad policies and poor performance. After all, officials have said it is not against the law to criticise the government. ‘Yellow’ outlet or trailblazer? The rise and fall of Hong Kong’s Stand News With these cases yet to go before the courts, we trust the judiciary to deal with them independently and fairly, and the prosecution to present convincing evidence. Lee’s references to “bad apples” who “pollute press freedom” are seen as premature by critics and yet to be substantiated by the evidence. Fair and transparent hearings are not only fundamental to the rule of law, but also critical if confidence in press freedom in the city is to be upheld.