HONG KONG: Five speech therapists in Hong Kong were found guilty of conspiring to publish seditious children’s books with what the prosecution called anti-government sheep and wolf caricatures and was given 19 months in prison on Saturday.
The five were found guilty on Wednesday of violating colonial-era sedition legislation, in what rights activists have called a “brazen act of repression” that the Hong Kong administration has condemned. Three books with cartoons of sheep battling wolves were allegedly published by the defendants, who had entered a not guilty plea.
The defendants should be punished, according to District Court Judge Kwok Wai Kin, “not because of the publication or the words but because of their harm or the risk of harm to children’s minds.”
Kwok concluded: “What the defendants did to the children aged four and older was a brain-washing exercise to guide the young children to accept their views and values.”
Aged 26 to 29, Lorie Lai, Melody Yeung, Sidney Ng, Samuel Chan, and Marco Fong were found guilty by Kwok, a judge whose mayor had specifically chosen to try national security crimes.
The books mentioned several incidents, such as the city’s widespread pro-democracy demonstrations in 2019 and the case of 12 democracy protestors who escaped Hong Kong by speedboat in 2020 and were apprehended by the Chinese coastguard.
In one novel, wolves aim to take over a village and devour the sheep, which causes the sheep to begin to fight back. Since the 2019 protests and Beijing’s implementation of a national security law on Hong Kong in 2020—which officials claimed was necessary to restore stability—this is the first time a case involving seditious publications has gone to trial.
The five could be released in 31 days, according to one of the group’s attorneys, after considering the 13 months they were imprisoned while awaiting trial.
Judge Kwok questioned the five of them, realizing they might soon be released. Kwok interrupted Lai’s mitigation, saying, “the court is not a place to make a political speech”. “Everyone has the freedom of expression, but that does not equal absolute freedom,” he continued.
In his ruling, Judge Kwok stated that “children will be led into the belief that the PRC Government is coming to Hong Kong with the wicked intention of taking away their home and ruining their happy life with no right to do so at all” with regard to the People’s Republic of China.