Hong Kongers Face Jail Over Kids' Books of Wolves, Sheep

Judge said tales had 'seditious intent,' incited hatred of authorities
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 7, 2022 4:03 PM CDT
5 in Hong Kong Guilty Over 'Seditious' Children's Books
A police superintendent speaks in front of a screen showing a scene from one of the books, Thursday, July 22, 2021.   (AP Photo/Vincent Yu, File)

Hong Kong, once considered a bastion of free speech, has found five people guilty of publishing "seditious" children's books in 2020 and 2021. After a two-month trial, a national security judge ruled that the "seditious intent" of three picture books published by the five speech therapists was clear, the BBC reports. The judge said the books—which depict sheep and wolves—were clear references to the 2019 protests against a controversial extradition bill, an attempt by 12 activists to flee to Taiwan as authorities cracked down on dissent, and a Hong Kong medical workers' strike at the start of the pandemic, reports the Hong Kong Free Press.

Judge Kwok Wai-kin said the defendants had sought to undermine authorities and incite discontent. The first book, he said, depicted Chinese authorities as "coming to Hong Kong with the wicked intention of taking away their home and ruining their happy life with no right to do so at all." Children who read the picture books, Kwok said, "will be led to hate and excite their disaffection against the Central Authorities." The judge rejected defense arguments that the sediton law lacked clarity, and that the books were only "fables" that ended with an open question, allowing children to make their own decisions on the issues.

The five defendants, all founding members of a speech therapists' union, are between 25 and 28 years old. They have already been in jail for more than a year and could be sentenced to up to two years at a hearing Saturday. Gwen Lee from Amnesty International strongly criticized the ruling. "In today's Hong Kong, you can go to jail for publishing children's books with drawings of wolves and sheep," she said. "These 'sedition' convictions are an absurd example of the disintegration of human rights in the city." (Read more Hong Kong stories.)

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