World Hong Kongers arrested for sedition over 'sheep village' children's books
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Five members of a Hong Kong union behind a series of children's books about sheep trying to hold back wolves from their village have been arrested for sedition, police announced Thursday.
The arrests by the new national security police unit, which is spearheading a sweeping crackdown on dissent, are the latest action against pro-democracy activists since huge and often violent protests convulsed the city two years ago.
Police said the two men and three women aged between 25 to 28 "conspired to publish, distribute, exhibit or copy seditious publications".
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The group was attempting to stir up "the public's -- and especially young children's -- hatred towards Hong Kong's government and judiciary and to incite violence and illegal acts," police said in their statement.
The five arrested people were members of a union and HK$160,000 ($20,600) in funds 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 published three illustrated e-books that try to explain Hong Kong's democracy movement to children.
Democracy supporters are portrayed as sheep living in a village surrounded by wolves.
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Hong Kong's press freedoms are "in tatters" as China remoulds the once outspoken business hub in its own authoritarian image, the city's main journalist union said Thursday, adding it feared "fake news" laws were on their way. Top officials and pro-Beijing lawmakers in Hong Kong have called for "fake news" laws, something activists fear will be used against coverage authorities dislike. "There are already many knives hanging over journalists' heads like laws against sedition and incitement so we do not need one more named a fake news law," Chan said.
The first book, titled "Guardians of Sheep Village" explains the 2019 pro-democracy protests that swept through Hong Kong.
"Janitors of Sheep Village", the second book, sees cleaners in the village go on strike to force out wolves who leave litter everywhere.
The book's introduction explains it is a reference to Hong Kong medical workers striking last year in a bid 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 Hong Kongers who made a failed bid to escape by speedboat last year to Taiwan but were detained by the Chinese coastguard and jailed.
Sedition is a colonial-era law that until last year had not been used since Hong Kong's 1997 handover to China.
It carries up to two years in jail for a first offence.
Police and prosecutors are now regularly using it alongside the national security law to clamp down on political speech and views.
Most of those arrested for such crimes are denied bail.
"Residents must see the facts clearly, must not condone or beautify violence and should not let the next generation be incited and misled by untrue and biased information," police said.
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