HONG KONG – Thin white sheep are constantly being harassed by wolves, who have demolished their homes, eaten their food and even sprayed poisonous gases. It became too much, and 12 of the sheep who tried to defend their village had to flee by boat. But they were captured and sent to prison.
This story was told in a children’s book published last year in Hong Kong. The sheep represents 12 activists arrested at sea while trying to escape to Taiwan. The wolves were from the Hong Kong police.
On Thursday, the police arrested five leaders of the group behind the book, the Syndicate of Speech Therapists, accusing them of instilling hatred of the government in children.
With the arrests, the authorities have sought, to the most basic level of printed material, a crackdown on political discourse with the aim of eliminating dissent expressed during the mass protests in 2019.
Hours later, in another move against dissenting voices, four senior editors and executives at Apple Daily, A pro-democracy newspaper shut down last month الشهرThey were summoned and denied bail. They are accused of colluding with foreign powers under the sweeping national security law that Beijing imposed on Hong Kong last year.
More than 100 people have been arrested under this law, including dozens of Hong Kong’s most prominent opposition politicians.
The Apple Daily, once one of the city’s largest newspapers, has been the most prominent media voice targeted by the police. It was shut down after authorities froze its accounts and accused its founder, Jimmy Lai, and six senior editors and executives of violating security law by calling for US sanctions on Hong Kong officials. Of those six, the four were summoned on Thursday.
But with the arrest of members of the Hong Kong General Federation of Speech Therapists, the campaign now includes children’s books. Police said they believed the posts were “intended to stir up public hatred, especially among young children,” towards the government and legal authorities.
Lee Kwai Wah, a senior supervisor at the police’s National Security Administration, said at a news briefing that the book and others published by the union “simplify and beautify political issues that children cannot understand.”
He added that union members “misused their profession” to indoctrinate children who have the potential to be influenced by anti-government views and incite violent and criminal behaviour.
The five syndicate members were arrested by the Hong Kong Police National Security Department under a colonial-era law on seditious publications. Conviction under the law, which has rarely been used in recent decades, carries a sentence of up to two years in prison.
“It is alarming not only for trade unions but also alarming for freedom of expression as a whole, for creative work and even the use of metaphor or commentary,” said Liu Tang, vice president of the Hong Kong Federation of Trade Unions, an umbrella group for professionals. Democratic workers’ organizations.
The Speech Therapists’ Syndicate was formed in 2019, at the height of anti-government protests, when several new unions were formed in part to challenge the political power of older labor groups allied with Beijing.
“In Hong Kong now, the weak are not being heard, and their voices are not being heard,” the union wrote in its statement. “We are a group of speech therapists, and we have to walk with the unheard.”
The union has published two other books for children, one of which is one in which they organize sheep to keep wolves, portrayed as trash and dangerous, from their village. This book was released in early 2020, when the opposition camp in Hong Kong was pressing the government to close the border with mainland China to control the spread of the coronavirus. The group also published a reading guide and organized events for parents to read books with their children.
Police in Hong Kong, once a bastion of free speech, have grown increasingly wary of criticism of their actions. security officials Blame it on anti-government sentiment For inspiration a man stabbed an officer and then killed himself on July 1.
Raymond Siew, who was promoted last month to chief of police, said the media bear responsibility for the public’s anger toward the police. He and his predecessor, Chris Tang, who has been promoted to security minister, say they support a law to restrict what they consider fake news, something the government says it is considering.
Anthony Dabiran, a lawyer and author of two books on protests in the city, said that even with the implementation of the security law, political cartoons and protest artwork continued to thrive on the sidelines in Hong Kong, but that could soon change.
“The fear these arrests instilled will likely end that,” he said. wrote on Twitter.