Hong Kong National Security Police arrested five people for allegedly conspiring to commit sedition through a series of picture books showing sheep being targeted by wolves, an allusion to China’s crackdown on supporters of democracy in the city.
Hours after police arrested five members of a speech therapists union, police exhibited three illustrated books they said incited hatred against the government among children as young as four. The cartoons simplified “political issues that children wouldn’t understand and embellished criminal activity,” Superintendent Steve Li Kwai-wah said at a press conference. “They are meant to poison the minds of children,” he said.
Described as educational tools, the books were distributed through pro-democracy businesses, local political offices and online by the Speech-Language Pathology Union, founded in November 2019, at a time when some activists were forming worker groups. in order to organize protest actions. against the government.
The books include a titled “The Guardians of Sheep Village,” which is set against the backdrop of the anti-government protests that rocked Hong Kong in 2019. It depicts a malicious plot by wolves to take over the sheep village and devour them all.
Another, “12 Warriors of Sheep Village,” refers to a dozen militants who were captured by the Chinese Coast Guard during an ill-fated boat escape from Hong Kong last year. The third book in the series, titled “Street Cleaners of Sheep Village,” hints at a strike by medical staff last year when Hong Kong faced its first coronavirus infections imported from China, using wolf cartoons littering garbage to represent foreigners.
Thursday’s arrests are part of an intensified crackdown on dissent in the former British colony and came the same day four former executives and journalists from the pro-democracy Apple Daily appeared in court for raping national security law by conspiring to come to an understanding with outside forces. Apple Daily, founded by jailed media mogul Jimmy Lai, was forced to cease publication last month after authorities seized its assets.
Publishers have been among the authorities’ targets since the National Security Law was imposed last year. Media and opposition groups have raised concerns over the elimination of free speech and the expansion of so-called red lines on what constitutes a crime to eliminate criticism authorities.
“Even children’s picture books cross the red line,” wrote Herbert Chow, a local businessman who supports the protest movement, in a Facebook post referring to the arrests.
The five arrested – two men and three women, aged 25 to 28 – are board members of the General Union of Speech-Language Pathologists of Hong Kong. They were detained under a colonial-era anti-edition law rather than China’s imposed security law.
In its online mission statement, the union says it has chosen to align with politically marginalized people. “We are a group of speech therapists, we should walk with the inaudible,” he said on his website. “Those who are lucky will not understand that being able to talk is a luxury. But we resonate with it.
Police said they seized around 550 related publications during the search of the homes and offices of the suspects, as well as numerous pro-democracy flyers and figures related to the protests.
Earlier this year, Christine Choi Yuk-lin, deputy director of the Hong Kong Bureau of Education, criticized one of the children’s books published by the Speech-Language Pathology Union for its inappropriate use in classrooms, warning parents that it was “political propaganda”.
Mr. Li, the police commissioner, said the group ignored Ms. Choi’s warning and continued to publish more books.
—Elaine Yu contributed to this article.
Write to Joyu Wang at [email protected]
Copyright © 2021 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All rights reserved. 87990cbe856818d5eddac44c7b1cdeb8