Five speech therapists were found guilty of sedition by a Hong Kong court after they produced a number of picture books for kids featuring cartoon animals. This case, according to opponents, demonstrates the city’s increasing limits on liberties.
In 2020 and 2021, the industry association General Union of Hong Kong Speech Therapists published articles about a “sheep community” that had been harassed and harmed. The fables, according to the prosecution, were allegories that “indoctrinated” kids to embrace independence and hate Beijing.
On September 10, the speech therapists are scheduled to be sentenced. They might spend up to two years behind bars.
District judge Kwok Wai-kin of Hong Kong remarked, “Seditious intention stems not merely from the words, but from the words with the proscribed effects intended to result in the mind of children,” as he announced his decision on Wednesday.
Defence attorneys for the therapists had contended that the alleged offence was “unconstitutional on the ground that it is inconsistent with their freedom of expression, speech, and publication.”
The case has been interpreted as a symbol of dwindling liberties in the financial centre since Beijing implemented a comprehensive national security law in 2020 as a result of widespread pro-democracy demonstrations the year before. The judiciary in Hong Kong has gotten much tougher on pro-democracy activists.
Jimmy Lai, a 74-year-old media entrepreneur and the creator of the pro-democracy tabloid Apple Daily, lost last week’s lawsuit to stop national security officials from checking his cell phones for journalistic data, setting a precedent that may apply to other cases. Lai just lost his bid for a jury trial.
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47 opposition lawmakers who were charged with subversion in relation to efforts to choose candidates to run in the city’s de facto parliament, the Legislative Council, election two years ago were also given a non-jury trial. Numerous members of the organisation have been detained since 2021, and 29 of them have said they will enter guilty pleas.
One of the books allegedly described how Chinese officials apprehended and detained 12 activists from Hong Kong who attempted to depart the city by boat two years prior. The other two books were allegories for the 2019 protests and a local doctors’ strike in which they demanded that authorities close the borders with mainland China at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.
(with inputs from agencies)