Hong Kong Police Arrest 5 Over Children’s Books Deemed ‘Seditious’

HONG KONG — The fluffy white sheep have been continuously harassed by wolves, who tore down their homes, ate their meals and even sprayed poison gasoline. It turned an excessive amount of, and 12 sheep who had tried to defend their village have been compelled to flee by boat. But they have been captured and despatched to jail.

That story was instructed in a youngsters’s ebook printed final 12 months in Hong Kong. The sheep represented 12 activists arrested at sea whereas attempting to flee to Taiwan. The wolves have been the Hong Kong police.

On Thursday, the police arrested 5 leaders of the group behind the ebook, a speech therapists’ union, accusing them of instilling hatred of the federal government in youngsters.

With the arrests, the authorities expanded, to probably the most elementary degree of printed supplies, a crackdown on political speech aimed toward stamping out the dissent expressed throughout mass protests in 2019.

Hours later, in one other transfer in opposition to opposing voices, 4 senior editors and executives of Apple Daily, a pro-democracy newspaper that was compelled to shut final month, have been arraigned and denied bail. They are accused of colluding with overseas powers beneath a sweeping nationwide safety legislation that Beijing imposed on Hong Kong final 12 months.

More than 100 individuals have been arrested beneath that legislation, together with dozens of Hong Kong’s most outstanding opposition politicians.

The workers of Apple Daily getting ready the ultimate version of the newspaper in Hong Kong final month.Credit…Lam Yik/Reuters

Apple Daily, as soon as one of many metropolis’s greatest newspapers, has been probably the most outstanding media voice focused by the police. It was shut down after the authorities froze its accounts and accused its founder, Jimmy Lai, and 6 prime editors and executives of violating the safety legislation by calling for American sanctions on Hong Kong officers. Among these six have been the 4 arraigned on Thursday.

But with the arrests of the members of the General Union of Hong Kong Speech Therapists, the crackdown now encompasses youngsters’s books. The police mentioned they believed that the publications have been “intended to arouse public hatred, especially among young children,” towards the federal government and authorized authorities.

Li Kwai-wah, a senior superintendent within the police’s nationwide safety division, mentioned in a information briefing that the ebook and others printed by the union “simplified and beautified political issues that children had no way of understanding.”

He added that members of the union had “abused their profession” to indoctrinate impressionable youngsters with anti-government views and incite violent and prison habits.

The 5 union members have been arrested by the nationwide safety division of the Hong Kong police beneath a colonial-era legislation on seditious publications. A conviction beneath the legislation, which has seldom been utilized in current a long time, carries a sentence of as much as two years in jail.

“It’s alarming not only for trade unions but also alarming for freedom of speech as a whole, for creative works and even using metaphor or commentary,” mentioned Leo Tang, vice chairman of the Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions, an umbrella group for pro-democracy labor organizations.

The speech therapists’ union was shaped in 2019, in the course of the top of the antigovernment protests, when many new unions have been shaped partially to problem the political energy of older labor teams aligned with Beijing.

Raymond Siu, the brand new chief of police, has mentioned the media bears accountability for stirring public anger with the police.Credit…Tyrone Siu/Reuters

“In Hong Kong right now, the powerless are the unheard, and their voices are not being listened to,” the union wrote in its manifesto. “We are a group of speech therapists, and we should walk with the unheard.”

The union printed two different youngsters’s books, together with one by which the sheep set up to maintain the wolves, who’re portrayed as littering and harmful, out of their village. That ebook was launched in early 2020, when Hong Kong’s opposition camp was lobbying the federal government to shut the border with mainland China to regulate the unfold of the coronavirus. The group additionally printed a studying information and arranged occasions for fogeys to learn the books with their youngsters.

The police in Hong Kong, which was as soon as a bastion of free speech, have more and more bristled at criticism of their actions. Security officers have blamed anti-government sentiment for uplifting a person who stabbed an officer after which killed himself on July 1.

Raymond Siu, who was promoted final month to chief of police, has mentioned the media bears accountability for the general public’s anger on the police. He and his predecessor, Chris Tang, who was promoted to safety secretary, say they again a legislation to limit what they deem faux information, one thing the federal government says it’s contemplating.

Even with the safety legislation in place, political cartoons and protest art work have continued to thrive on the margins in Hong Kong, however that might quickly change, mentioned Antony Dapiran, a lawyer and creator of two books on protests within the metropolis.

“The fear instilled by these arrests will likely end that,” he wrote on Twitter.