Five members of a Hong Kong union behind a series of children’s books about sheep trying to hold back wolves from their village have been arrested for sedition, police announced yesterday.
The arrests by Hong Kong’s new national security police unit, which is spearheading a sweeping crackdown on dissent, are the latest actions against democracy advocates since huge and often violent protests convulsed the territory two years ago.
Police said that two men and three women, aged 25 to 28, “conspired to publish, distribute, exhibit or copy seditious publications.”
The group was attempting to stir up “the public’s — and especially young children’s — hatred towards Hong Kong’s government and judiciary and to incite violence and illegal acts,” police said in a statement.
The five arrested were members of a union, police said, adding that HK$160,000 (US$20,585) in funds had been frozen under Hong Kong’s Beijing-imposed National Security Law.
A police source said that they are members of the General Union of Hong Kong Speech Therapists.
The union in the past few months published three illustrated e-books that try to explain Hong Kong’s democracy movement to children.
Democracy supporters are portrayed as sheep living in a village surrounded by wolves.
The first book, titled Guardians of Sheep Village, explains the 2019 democracy protests that swept through Hong Kong.
The second book, Janitors of Sheep Village, tells the story of cleaners in the village going on strike to force out wolves who leave litter everywhere.
The book’s introduction said that it is a reference to Hong Kong medical workers striking last year to force the government to close the border with mainland China at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The final book in the trilogy, The 12 Braves of Sheep Village, is about a group of sheep who flee their village by boat because of the wolves. It is a direct reference to 12 Hong Kongers who attempted to escape by speedboat to Taiwan last year, but were detained by the Chinese coastguard and jailed.
The sedition charges are based on a colonial-era law that until last year had not been used since Hong Kong’s 1997 handover to China. It carries up to two years in jail for a first offense.
Hong Kong prosecutors are regularly using it alongside the National Security Law to clamp down on political speech.
Most of those arrested for such crimes are denied bail.
Separately, seven government supporters who took part in a violent assault on democracy advocates and commuters were jailed yesterday for what the trial judge described as an “indiscriminate attack.”
The verdict came exactly two years after a gang of men dressed in white shirts and carrying sticks descended on people returning at night from a democracy rally in the district of Yuen Long. The brazen assault was a turning point in the democracy protests, further hammering public trust in security forces and the government.
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