HONG KONG — The fluffy white sheep had been always harassed by wolves, who tore down their homes, ate their meals and even sprayed poison gasoline. It grew to become an excessive amount of, and 12 sheep who had tried to defend their village had been pressured to flee by boat. However they had been captured and despatched to jail.
That story was advised in a kids’s ebook printed final 12 months in Hong Kong. The sheep represented 12 activists arrested at sea whereas making an attempt to flee to Taiwan. The wolves had been the Hong Kong police.
On Thursday, the police arrested 5 leaders of the group behind the ebook, a speech therapists’ union, accusing them of instilling hatred of the federal government in kids.
With the arrests, the authorities expanded, to essentially the most elementary degree of printed supplies, a crackdown on political speech geared toward stamping out the dissent expressed throughout mass protests in 2019.
Hours later, in one other transfer in opposition to opposing voices, 4 senior editors and executives of Apple Every day, a pro-democracy newspaper that was forced to close last month, had been arraigned and denied bail. They’re accused of colluding with international powers below a sweeping nationwide safety legislation that Beijing imposed on Hong Kong final 12 months.
Greater than 100 folks have been arrested below that legislation, together with dozens of Hong Kong’s most outstanding opposition politicians.
Apple Every day, as soon as one of many metropolis’s greatest newspapers, has been essentially the most outstanding media voice focused by the police. It was shut down after the authorities froze its accounts and accused its founder, Jimmy Lai, and 6 prime editors and executives of violating the safety legislation by calling for American sanctions on Hong Kong officers. Amongst these six had been the 4 arraigned on Thursday.
However with the arrests of the members of the Common Union of Hong Kong Speech Therapists, the crackdown now encompasses kids’s books. The police mentioned they believed that the publications had been “supposed to arouse public hatred, particularly amongst younger kids,” towards the federal government and authorized authorities.
Li Kwai-wah, a senior superintendent within the police’s nationwide safety division, mentioned in a information briefing that the ebook and others printed by the union “simplified and beautified political points that kids had no means of understanding.”
He added that members of the union had “abused their career” to indoctrinate impressionable kids with anti-government views and incite violent and legal habits.
The 5 union members had been arrested by the nationwide safety division of the Hong Kong police below a colonial-era legislation on seditious publications. A conviction below the legislation, which has seldom been utilized in latest many years, carries a sentence of as much as two years in jail.
“It’s alarming not just for commerce unions but additionally alarming for freedom of speech as a complete, for artistic works and even utilizing metaphor or commentary,” mentioned Leo Tang, vice chairman of the Hong Kong Confederation of Commerce Unions, an umbrella group for pro-democracy labor organizations.
The speech therapists’ union was shaped in 2019, through the top of the antigovernment protests, when many new unions had been shaped partly to problem the political energy of older labor teams aligned with Beijing.
“In Hong Kong proper now, the powerless are the unheard, and their voices aren’t being listened to,” the union wrote in its manifesto. “We’re a bunch of speech therapists, and we should always stroll with the unheard.”
The union printed two different kids’s books, together with one through which the sheep manage to maintain the wolves, who’re portrayed as littering and harmful, out of their village. That ebook was launched in early 2020, when Hong Kong’s opposition camp was lobbying the federal government to shut the border with mainland China to manage the unfold of the coronavirus. The group additionally printed a studying information and arranged occasions for fogeys to learn the books with their kids.
The police in Hong Kong, which was as soon as a bastion of free speech, have more and more bristled at criticism of their actions. Safety officers have blamed anti-government sentiment for uplifting a person who stabbed an officer after which killed himself on July 1.
Raymond Siu, who was promoted final month to chief of police, has mentioned the media bears duty for the general public’s anger on the police. He and his predecessor, Chris Tang, who was promoted to safety secretary, say they again a legislation to limit what they deem faux information, one thing the federal government says it’s contemplating.
Even with the safety legislation in place, political cartoons and protest art work have continued to thrive on the margins in Hong Kong, however that might quickly change, mentioned Antony Dapiran, a lawyer and writer of two books on protests within the metropolis.
“The concern instilled by these arrests will probably finish that,” he wrote on Twitter.