The government on Thursday rejected what it called "misleading and slanderous remarks" by senior Catholic clerics regarding the former media tycoon Jimmy Lai.
Ten cardinals, archbishops and bishops from countries including the US, India and Nigeria, have signed a joint petition to ask for the immediate and unconditional release of Lai, who's a Catholic.
In a statement, a government spokesman said their remarks represented interference in "the SAR's internal affairs and the courts' independent exercise of judicial power".
"Any person, regardless of his or her identity, who attempts to interfere with the judicial proceedings in the HKSAR in order to procure a defendant's evasion of the criminal justice process, is blatantly undermining the rule of law of the HKSAR," the statement read.
"The HKSAR shall continue, in accordance with the law, to effectively prevent, suppress and punish acts and activities that endanger national security and also to safeguard the rights and freedoms enjoyed by Hong Kong people. The HKSAR Government strongly urges the foreign Catholic leaders to discern facts from fallacies, and immediately stop interfering in the HKSAR's internal affairs and the HKSAR courts' independent exercise of judicial power."
Lai, the founder of the now-defunct Apple Daily, has been remanded in custody since December 2020. He's due to go on trial in a national security case next month.