HONG KONG — The fluffy white sheep had been continuously harassed by wolves, who tore down their homes, ate their meals and even sprayed poison gasoline. It turned an excessive amount of, and 12 sheep who had tried to defend their village had been compelled to flee by boat. However they had been captured and despatched to jail.
That story was instructed in a kids’s ebook revealed final yr in Hong Kong. The sheep represented 12 activists arrested at sea whereas attempting 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 aimed toward stamping out the dissent expressed throughout mass protests in 2019.
Hours later, in one other transfer towards opposing voices, 4 senior editors and executives of Apple Day by day, a pro-democracy newspaper that was compelled to shut final month, had been arraigned and denied bail. They’re accused of colluding with overseas powers below a sweeping nationwide safety regulation that Beijing imposed on Hong Kong final yr.
Greater than 100 individuals have been arrested below that regulation, together with dozens of Hong Kong’s most distinguished opposition politicians.
Apple Day by day, as soon as one of many metropolis’s greatest newspapers, has been essentially the most distinguished media voice focused by the police. It was shut down after the authorities froze its accounts and accused its founder, Jimmy Lai, and 6 high editors and executives of violating the safety regulation 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 Normal Union of Hong Kong Speech Therapists, the crackdown now encompasses kids’s books. The police stated 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, stated in a information briefing that the ebook and others revealed 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 occupation” to indoctrinate impressionable kids with anti-government views and incite violent and prison conduct.
The 5 union members had been arrested by the nationwide safety division of the Hong Kong police below a colonial-era regulation on seditious publications. A conviction below the regulation, which has seldom been utilized in latest a long time, 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 an entire, for inventive works and even utilizing metaphor or commentary,” stated 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 fashioned in 2019, in the course of the peak of the antigovernment protests, when many new unions had been fashioned partially 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 usually are not being listened to,” the union wrote in its manifesto. “We’re a gaggle of speech therapists, and we should always stroll with the unheard.”
The union revealed two different kids’s books, together with one wherein the sheep set up 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 regulate the unfold of the coronavirus. The group additionally revealed a studying information and arranged occasions for folks 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 stated 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 regulation to limit what they deem pretend information, one thing the federal government says it’s contemplating.
Even with the safety regulation in place, political cartoons and protest art work have continued to thrive on the margins in Hong Kong, however that would quickly change, stated Antony Dapiran, a lawyer and creator of two books on protests within the metropolis.
“The worry instilled by these arrests will doubtless finish that,” he wrote on Twitter.