Hong Kong speech therapists jailed for conspiracy to ‘brainwash’ children with cartoons

Children’s books are pictured at a press conference after five people were arrested on suspicion of conspiring to publish ‘seditious material’ with the aim of inciting public hatred towards the government among children, in Hong Kong, China on July 22, 2021. – Reuters
  • Speech therapists convicted of conspiring to publish seditious children’s books.
  • The books referenced events, including the mass pro-democracy protests in the city.
  • In one book, the wolves want to occupy the village and eat the sheep, which in turn begin to fight back.

Five Hong Kong speech therapists were sentenced to 19 months in prison on Saturday for conspiring to publish seditious children’s books, featuring cartoons of sheep and wolves that prosecutors deemed anti-government.

The five men were convicted on Wednesday under a colonial-era sedition law in a case denounced by human rights activists as a “brazen act of repression”, which the hong kong government rejected.

The defendants, who had pleaded not guilty, were accused of having published three books presenting caricatures of sheep fighting against wolves.

District Court Judge Kwok Wai Kin said the defendants should be punished “not because of the publication or the words, but because of their harm or risk of harm to the minds of children”, claiming that the works sow the seeds of “instability”.

“What the defendants did to children aged 4 and up was actually a brainwashing exercise to guide very young children to accept their views and values,” Kwok said.

Lorie Lai, Melody Yeung, Sidney Ng, Samuel Chan and Marco Fong, aged 26 to 29, were sentenced by Kwok, who was handpicked by the city’s leader to try national security cases.

The books referenced events such as the city’s 2019 mass pro-democracy protests and the case of 12 pro-democracy protesters who fled Hong Kong by speedboat in 2020 and were captured by guards. -Chinese ribs.

In one book, the wolves want to occupy a village and eat the sheep, which in turn start fighting back.

It is the first time a case of seditious publications has gone to trial since the 2019 protests and the imposition of a national security law on Hong Kong by Beijing in 2020, which officials say was vital to restoring stability.

One of the group’s lawyers estimated that the five could be released in 31 days after deductions are made, including the 13 months they spent in jail awaiting trial.

Acknowledging that they may soon be leaving prison, Judge Kwok asked the five “when would you leave prison of your own mind”.

Lai’s mitigation was interrupted by Kwok, who said “the court is not a place to make a political speech”.

“Everyone has freedom of speech, but that doesn’t equate to absolute freedom,” he said.

Before being arrested, Lai had said that the central issue in the trial was freedom of expression and that “freedom with limits is not freedom”.

Defendant Yeung quoted American civil rights leader Martin Luther King as saying “a riot is the language of the unheard of”.

“I don’t regret my choice and I hope I can always stand on the side of the sheep,” Yeung said.

Judge Kwok said in his verdict that “the children will be led to believe that the PRC government is coming to Hong Kong with the evil intention of taking away their home and ruining their happy life without any right to do so.” referring to the People’s Republic of China.

The defendants were members of the Hong Kong General Union of Speech-Language Pathologists, which Judge Kwok said “was clearly set up for political purposes”.

“The political situation appears to be calm on the surface but very unstable below,” Kwok said, describing the situation in Hong Kong after the national security law.

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