Hong Kong: Arrests for possessing children’s books a 'new low' for human rights

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Responding to the arrest of two men in Hong Kong for possession of children’s books – classified as “seditious materials” – that depicted mainland Chinese authorities as leaders of the wolves Hana Young, Amnesty International’s Deputy Regional Director, said:

“People’s freedoms have been battered in Hong Kong since the introduction of the National Security Law in 2020, but even in that context this feels like another new low for human rights in the city.

“National security police have arrested two people for possessing ‘seditious’ children’s books about sheep and wolves – a so-called ‘crime’ that is punishable by up to two years in prison. 

“It is the latest example of the Hong Kong authorities using the colonial-era sedition law as a pretext for cracking down on critical voices.

“These ludicrous sedition charges must be dropped. No one should be imprisoned only because they own children’s books.” 

Harsh crackdown on dissent

Two men were arrested by Hong Kong’s national security police for “sedition” on 13 March over the possession of the illustrated children’s books. They have since been released bail but may face up to two years in prison.

Five people, all former members of the General Union of Hong Kong Speech Therapists, were convicted of sedition in September 2022 for publishing a series of children’s books about Hong Kong’s 2019 pro-democracy mass protests and other issues.

In the books The Guardians of Sheep VillageThe 12 Heroes of Sheep Village and The Garbage Collectors of Sheep Village, Hong Kong residents were depicted as sheep and mainland Chinese authorities as the leader of the wolves. 

National security police said the books – which were aimed at children between four and seven years old – had a “seditious intent” and “incited violence”.Since 2020, the Hong Kong government has been using colonial-era sedition charges and the repressive National Security Law to stamp out dissent.

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