Under sedition legislation that dates back to colonial times, five Hong Kong speech therapists have each been given a sentence of 19 months in prison. A court came to the conclusion that they were guilty of releasing a series of illustrated books for children that had the effect of “indoctrinating” their audience of young readers.
The books in question, which were about sheep and wolves, were said to have made references to the disturbance in Hong Kong in 2019 that was caused by the anti-extradition law, the incarceration of 12 Hong Kong fugitives by the Chinese government, and a strike that was conducted by Hong Kong doctors at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Five people on the executive committee of the General Union of Hong Kong Speech Therapists, all of whom were between the ages of 26 and 29, all said that the claim was false.
During the passing of judgment, Judge Kwok said that the speech therapists “in effect brainwashed” young readers via the use of illustrated books in their practice. According to Kwok, the release of the novels “implanted” feelings of dread, animosity, dissatisfaction, and apathy in the brains of young readers. He noted an interview with the media that one of the defendants provided, in which the speech therapist said that some young readers told them they would “fight” the wolves, while other young readers indicated they would run away from the wolves.
Kwok said that the conspiracy had been going on for a considerable amount of time, and the arrests of individuals involved were the only thing that put a stop to it. The five speech therapists were reported to have been “equal participants” in the scheme.
Since the group has been detained for more than a year already, defense lawyers estimated that the speech therapists could be released in about a month.
Kwok found that the children’s books in question were inciting violence and subversion in a judgement that was 67 pages long and was handed out on Wednesday. According to him, the first book about sheep protecting their community from wolves meant that the Chinese authorities were wolves, while the chief executive of Hong Kong was a wolf who “masqueraded as a sheep” and was commanded by the “wolf-chairman.” He claimed this was inferred by the plot of the book, which was about sheep protecting their village from wolves.
A narrative like this would incite readers, some of whom would be as young as four years old, to despise the Chinese authorities by making children think that the Chinese government was “coming to Hong Kong with the evil goal of taking away their home.”
According to Kwok, the book portrayed the disastrous extradition law, which was the catalyst for months of violent demonstrations in the city in 2019, as a weapon to “suppress rebellious Hong Kong people.” He thought that if children in Hong Kong read the book, they would lose faith in the country’s justice system and law enforcement.
Kwok’s ruling states that all five defendants were involved in the conspiracy by virtue of the positions they had within the union. He also says that the group that was set up after the disturbance in 2019 was “clearly made for political purposes.”
When the case was being heard in July, the prosecution compared sedition to treason and described it as a “very severe felony.” The defense, on the other hand, argued that the newly revived law “lacked clarity” and had “broad limits,” implying that it could be abused to stifle dissident views.They also claimed that the act could be utilized to silence dissenting voices.
The Beijing-imposed national security legislation, which demands up to life imprisonment and criminalizes secession, subversion, coordination with foreign forces, and terrorist activities, does not encompass sedition. The sedition statute carries a maximum sentence of two years in jail for anyone who is found guilty of its violations.