Five arrested in Hong Kong for illustrated children’s books that ‘incite hatred’

Five Speech Therapists stand trial for sedition in Hong Kong over a series of children’s books about sheep and wolves.

Freedom of expression is something that is considered something of a fine line to cross in some parts of the World. Prevalent in China, where freedom of expression is significantly limited, the latest arrests involve a series of illustrated children’s books that depict, Hong Kong residents as sheep, and mainland Chinese as wolves. 

The five staff members of the General Union of Hong Kong Speech Therapists, the chairperson, deputy chairperson, secretary, and treasurer in question have been in custody since July last year. At the time of arrest, the police seized around 550 children’s books, and a large number of leaflets, computers, and phones.

Senior Superintendent Steve Li held a press conference and said the books attempted to simplify “political issues not comprehensible by children” and to “beautify illegal behaviour.” The book disparaged kind-hearted sheep as well as the wolves, he said.

The unionists were arrested under section 10 of the Crimes Ordinance and so far bail applications have been denied. The group is accused of trying to ‘incite hatred’ by writing and publishing books, that show Hong Kong residents as sheep and mainland Chinese as wolves.

At a five-day trial in Hong Kong, the group pleaded ‘not guilty’ to publishing agitational children’s books. 

Prosecutor Laura Ng said the books characterized the two groups as hostile. Citing that the books depict “Hong Kong residents as vulnerable minorities, and Chinese rulers as cold-blooded, totalitarian and brutal, and that mainland Chinese are thugs”.

Ng alleges that the defendants have openly admitted to having based these books on the political turmoil and street protests that began in 2019 over a controversial extradition bill.

children book hong kong
Senior Superintendent Steve Li Credit: Hong Kong FP

One of the books, The 12 Warriors of Sheep Village, has been said to relay the story of the capture of 12 Hong Kong fugitives by Chinese authorities in 2020.

Ng goes on to say that one of the books called for Hong Kong residents to take up arms and use violence against authorities, while another called for foreign interference in the territory’s judicial process.

A third book was said to have blamed mainland Chinese for the Covid pandemic, portraying them as “selfish, uncivilized and unhygienic” which the prosecutor said could incite separatist feelings among the residents of Hong Kong.

The group faces charges of conspiracy to print, publish, distribute, display and/or reproduce seditious publications with a potential sentence of two years in jail.