The five will be sentenced on Saturday and face a two-year prison sentence for publishing books intended to explain the democratic movement to children.
A Hong Kong court has found five speech therapists guilty of sedition over a series of children’s picture books that portrayed the city’s democracy advocates as sheep defending their village from wolves.
Prosecutors alleged that the three comic books, which sought to explain the Hong Kong pro-democracy movement for young people, spread “separatism”, and provoke “hate” and opposition to the government.
Laurie Lai, Melody Young, Sidney Ng, Samuel Chan and Marco Fong, ages 25 to 28, all members of the Speech Therapists’ Guild, pleaded not guilty.
They chose not to testify during the trial or call any witnesses when the proceedings began in July.
Their lawyers argued that the crime of sedition is vaguely defined and that each reader should be allowed to make up their mind as to what the characters represented in the books.
They also warned that a guilty verdict would further criminalize political criticism and have a chilling effect on society.
This is the first time the seditious leaflet’s case has been brought to trial since the protests that rocked the province in 2019 and Beijing’s imposition of the national security law the following year. The Sedition Act, which dates back to the colonial era, had not been in place since 1967 before it was revived in the wake of mass protests.
The charges relate to three books targeting children aged 4-7: Sheep Village Guardians, 12 Sheep Village Heroes, and Sheep Village Garbage Collectors.
Their plots relate to many real-life events, including the 2019 protests, a A failed attempt by a group of 12 protesters to flee to Taiwan by speedboat, and a strike by medical workers at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic that called on Hong Kong to close its border with China.
In a written summary released on Wednesday, District Judge Kwok Y Keen said all three books are seditious, not just from the words “but from words with intended forbidden effects in the minds of children.”
Kwok, a member of a panel of security judges selected by the city leader, wrote.
The five will be judged on Saturday. The Sedition Act carries a prison sentence of up to two years.
In a statement responding to the verdict, Amnesty International China activist Gwen Li called the conviction “an absurd example of the disintegration of human rights in the city.”
“Writing books for children is not a crime, and trying to educate children about recent events in Hong Kong history does not constitute an attempt to incite rebellion.”
Prior to the imposition of the Security Act, Hong Kong enjoyed a great deal of freedom of expression and was home to a vibrant media and publishing industry.
But the sweeping crackdown in the wake of the 2019 protests has forced many outlets to close, including the popular tabloid Apple Daily, while books have been removed from bookstores, and school curricula have been rewritten to include lessons on security law for young children. six.
Many pro-democracy activists and politicians are either in prison, awaiting trial or have fled abroad, and dozens of civil society organizations have closed, including many labor unions.
Only people considered “patriotic” are allowed to hold office in Hong Kong.
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