HONG KONG (AP) — Five Hong Kong speech therapists were convicted of sedition on Wednesday after they printed a series of children’s books about sheep and wolves that a court said was aimed at inciting hatred against authorities.
The five executive committee members of the General Union of Hong Kong Speech Therapists could face up to two years imprisonment. They had pleaded not guilty to the charge of conspiring to print, publish, distribute and display and/or reproduce seditious publications.
Authorities have cracked down on dissent in Hong Kong since pro-democracy protests in 2019, arresting dozens of activists while others have fled abroad. The clampdown has led to criticism that China's ruling Communist Party has reneged on a 1997 pledge when Hong Kong was handed over from Britain to China to retain the city's Western-style freedoms. including free speech.
Also on Wednesday, the chairman of Hong Kong’s largest journalists’ association was arrested for allegedly obstructing police and public disorder while reporting. Local news outlet Channel C reported that Ronson Chan, chairman of the Hong Kong Journalists Association and its employee, and a colleague had planned to report on a meeting of public housing apartment owners. However, they were stopped by police and asked to present their identification cards. Chan was subsequently arrested after refusing to provide identification.
The five speech therapists — Lorie Lai, Melody Yeung, Sidney Ng, Samuel Chan and Fong Tsz-ho — had been remanded in custody for over a year prior to Wednesday's conviction.
They were arrested in July 2021, after they published three books with stories that revolved around a village of sheep that has to deal with wolves from a different village.
The sheep take action like going on strike or escaping by boat, according to the synopses published on the association’s website. Police said that the stories published in the books paralleled the incidents linked to political unrest in Hong Kong, such as the 12 Hong Kong activists who were arrested at sea while attempting to flee the city.
The convicted speech therapists will face sentencing on Sep. 10.