Five members of a Hong-Kong union behind a series of children’s books about sheep trying to keep wolves out of their village have been arrested for sedition.
The arrests by the new unit of national security police, which is at the forefront of a sweeping crackdown on dissent, are the latest actions against pro-democracy activists since massive and often violent protests shook the city two years ago.
Police said on Thursday that the two men and three women, aged between 25 and 28, had “conspired to publish, distribute, display or copy incendiary publications.”
The group sought to “incite public hatred – especially young children – towards the Hong Kong government and judiciary and to incite violence and illegal acts,” the police said in their statement.
The five people arrested were union members and HK$160,000 (US$20,600) in assets had been frozen under a new national security law China imposed on Hong Kong last year, police added.
A police source told AFP that the arrested men and women were members of The General Union of Hong Kong Speech Therapists.
In recent months, the union has published three illustrated ebooks that attempt 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 Pro-democracy protests 2019 2019 that swept through Hong Kong.
Sheep Village Caretakers, the second book, sees village cleaners on strike to drive out wolves who leave litter everywhere.
The book’s introduction explains that it is a reference to medical personnel in Hong Kong who went out last year in an attempt to force the government to close the border with mainland China at the start of the coronavirus 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 Hongkongers who have a failed attempt to escape to Taiwan by speedboat last year but were detained by the Chinese Coast Guard and imprisoned.
Sedition is a colonial-era law that hadn’t been used until last year since Hong Kong was handed over to China in 1997. It carries a maximum jail term of two years for a first offense.
Police and prosecutors now regularly use it alongside national security law to limit political statements and positions.
Most of those arrested for such crimes do not get bail.
“Residents must see the facts clearly, must not condone or embellish violence, and must not allow the next generation to be incited and misled by untrue and biased information,” police said.