Five Hong Kong speech therapists convicted in riot over children’s book about wolves and sheep

The indictment centers on a series of picture books that tell the story of a sheep village that resists a pack of wolves that invade its home. Government prosecutors say it was intended to provoke insults against Beijing’s local government and China’s central government.

In one book, a wolf took over a village and tried to eat sheep. In another book, 12 sheep were forced to leave their village after being targeted by wolves. 12 Hong Kong activists As a fugitive, he attempted to flee to Taiwan, but was intercepted by Chinese law enforcement.

In Wednesday’s ruling, a Hong Kong District Court judge expressed his view that the images correlated with events in the city, refusing that the authors intended to “cause hatred or contempt or incite dissatisfaction”. and supported the prosecution against local and central governments, or both.

“By identifying the (People’s Republic of China) government as wolves, the children come to Hong Kong with the evil intention of robbing their homes and ruining their happy lives in Hong Kong. You have no right to do so,” Judge Kwok Wai Kin wrote in a 67-page document outlining his thoughts on the verdict.

“The book publisher clearly refuses to acknowledge that (China) has resumed exercising its sovereignty over (Hong Kong),” Kwok said in the decision, adding that the former British colony He mentioned that Hong Kong, which had been in the past, was transferred to China.

The case stands as a proxy for looming questions about restrictions on freedom of expression in Hong Kong amid a larger crackdown on civil liberties as part of a massive and months-long Beijing response. Anti-government demonstrations in 2019.

These protests, which ignited in response to a bill that could put Hong Kong citizens on trial for cross-border crimes, have morphed into a larger pro-democracy movement, as Beijing’s influence expands in half the world. It was also associated with general concerns about being Autonomous city.

The defendants, all of whom were members of the executive council of the now-defunct Hong Kong Speech Therapists Confederation, argued that they contradicted the freedom of expression protected under Hong Kong. It argued that the charges against them were unconstitutional given that law.

But Kwok, who is also one of a small cohort of judges hand-picked by city leaders to try cases related to national security, said he had imposed restrictions on freedom of expression to protect national security. He denied the challenge, stating that more restrictions were needed. and security.

In a document outlining the reasons for his conviction, Kwok argued that the book was merely an allegory promoting universal values, and included a preface to one of the books referring to the 2019 “anti-legislative movement.” and argued that it was another allegation raised by the defense. The “one country, two systems” mechanism governing relations between Hong Kong and the mainland.

The defendants, who have been denied bail since their arrest in July 2021, could be sentenced to up to two years in prison, according to public broadcaster RTHK. Lorie Lai, Melody Yeung, Sidney Ng, Samuel Chan and Marco Fong, aged 25 to her 28, have all pleaded not guilty.

The case gained public attention after their arrest when police tweeted that they were “indulging protesters’ illegal activities” and “glorifying fugitives fleeing”. Beijing and local leaders encourage national pride This includes strengthening national education in local curricula.

The verdict has been met with protests from rights defenders. In his statement, Human Rights Watch accused the Hong Kong government of using “very broad” sedition laws to “punish minor offenses of speech.”

Maya Wang, senior China researcher at Human Rights Watch, said in a statement, “Hong Kong people used to read about the absurd indictment of mainlanders writing political allegories, but now It’s happening in Hong Kong,” he said. “Hong Kong authorities should reverse this dramatic decline in liberty and reverse the convictions of five children’s book authors.”

In July, the United Nations Human Rights Commission also called on Hong Kong to repeal its colonial-era security law, saying it was concerned that the law would be used to restrict the movement of its citizens. .Legitimate Right to Freedom of Speech.”

In response, the government said the application of the law was “not intended to silence the expression of opinions that are nothing more than pure criticism of the government based on objective facts.”

The law, which was part of the 1938 Crime Ordinance and was out of use for decades, was revived in 2020 with the introduction of the National Security Law in Hong Kong by Beijing. life in prison.

Last year, a court ruled that parts of the original sedition law that referred to the monarch could be changed to mean a reference to the central or Hong Kong government. sentence is handed down.

Other recent cases include 75-year-old activist sentenced Nine months in prison for planning to protest the Beijing Winter Olympics earlier this year. Last month, two men were arrested on suspicion of breaking the law in connection with a Facebook group they allegedly managed.


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