© Reuters. A police officer escorts one of the five suspects, arrested on suspicion of posting and distributing seditious material, in Hong Kong, China, on July 22, 2021. REUTERS / Tyrone Siu
By Donny Kwok and Sara Cheng
HONG KONG (Reuters) – Hong Kong police arrested five people on Thursday on sedition charges, saying the children’s books they had published featuring wolves and sheep as characters were aimed at inciting hatred of the city government among Young.
The arrests were the latest involving suspected critics of the Hong Kong government who have raised fears about shrinking space for dissent since Beijing imposed a national security law in June 2020 to end pro-Hong Kong protests. democracy in the semi-autonomous city.
Police said a book, “Defenders of the Sheep Village”, was related to the protests. In the story, the wolves want to occupy the town and eat the sheep, which in turn use their horns to defend themselves.
Those arrested were members of a union of speech therapists that produced children’s books. Police said the five were two men and three women between the ages of 25 and 28. They were not identified by name.
All five were arrested on suspicion of conspiring to publish seditious material under a colonial-era law that had rarely been used before anti-government protests began in the former British colony.
Police Superintendent Steve Li told a news conference that the police were concerned about books because of the information that children contain, which “makes their minds and develops a moral standard to be against society. “.
Two other books produced by the union in addition to “Defenders of the Sheep Village” stood out.
The second told the story of 12 sheep led by wolves to the village of beasts where they would be cooked, potentially alluding to the 12 people from Hong Kong captured by China in August last year at sea while trying to flee the city by boat. . Li said the story was not factual and incited hatred against the authorities.
The third book tells the story of the wolves sneaking through a hole in the sheep village and shows the wolves so dirty and the sheep so clean. This was aimed at creating hatred against the government, Li said.
First convictions under the sedition law can carry a maximum sentence of two years in prison, police said. The Hong Kong General Union of Speech Therapists could not be reached for comment.
The authorities have denied any erosion of rights and freedoms in Hong Kong, which returned to China in 1997 under a “one country, two systems” formula aimed at preserving its freedoms and its role as a financial center, but say national security from China is a red line. .
Security officials have said that the police action is based on evidence and has nothing to do with an individual’s political stance, background or profession.
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