© Reuters. On July 22, 2021, Hong Kong, China, a policeman escorted one of five suspects detained on suspicion of publishing and distributing inflammatory materials. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu
Authors: Donny Kwok and Sara Cheng
HONG KONG (Reuters)-Hong Kong police arrested five people on Thursday on charges of inciting rebellion, saying they published children’s books featuring wolves and sheep aimed at inciting young people to hate the Hong Kong government.
Since Beijing implemented the National Security Law in June 2020 to end democratic protests in the semi-autonomous city, these arrests are the latest incident involving skeptical critics of the Hong Kong government who fear that the space for dissent is shrinking.
The police said that a book “The Defenders of the Sheep Village” was related to the protests. In the story, the wolf wants to occupy the village and eat the sheep, and the sheep fights back with their horns.
The arrested person is a member of a speech therapist union that produces books for children. The police said the five were two men and three women, aged between 25 and 28. They did not name them by name.
The five people were arrested on suspicion of conspiring to publish inflammatory materials under colonial-era laws, which were rarely used before the anti-government protests began in the former British colonies.
Senior Superintendent Steve Lee said at a media briefing that the police are concerned about the books because the information in them makes children “change their minds and develop anti-social moral standards.”
In addition to “Defenders of the Sheep Village,” they also highlighted two other books produced by the union.
The second story tells the story of the wolf bringing 12 sheep to the Beast Village to cook. It may allude to the 12 Hongkongers captured by China at sea in August last year, trying to escape the city by boat. Li said that this story was not true and incited hatred against the authorities.
The third book tells the story of the wolf sneaking into the sheep village from the cave, showing that the wolf is dirty and the sheep are clean. Li said this is aimed at creating hatred against the government.
According to the police, the first conviction under the Sedition Act carries a maximum sentence of two years in prison. The Hong Kong Federation of Speech Therapists could not be reached for comment.
The authorities deny that Hong Kong’s rights and freedoms have been eroded-Hong Kong returned to China in 1997 under the “one country, two systems” model aimed at safeguarding its freedom and role as a financial center-but said that China’s national security is a red line.
Security officials stated that law enforcement actions are based on evidence and have nothing to do with personal political stance, background or occupation.
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