Hong Kong police on Thursday arrested five people on suspicion of plotting to publish “seditious material” with the intention of inciting children to public hatred of the government in the Chinese-led city.
Those arrested were members of a speech therapists union that produced children’s books with wolves and sheep as story characters, National Security Department chief superintendent Steve Li told a conference Thursday. Press.
Two men and three women aged 25 to 28. They did not identify them, police said.
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They were arrested under a colonial-era law aimed at sedition, which had rarely been used before anti-government protests began in the former British colony.
The first convictions under the law can carry a maximum sentence of two years in prison, police said.
Li said that the content of the books “stirs up hatred” towards the government and “incites violence.”
“They use children’s cartoons to simplify and embellish illegal behavior on political issues,” he said. “For example, the evil acts of the thugs during the 2019 protests and the painting of the 12 fugitives from Hong Kong as heroes. They are poisoning our children.”
Li urged parents and stores that stock the books to throw them out.
The arrests were the latest involving alleged critics of the Hong Kong government who raised fears the space for dissent has narrowed since Beijing imposed a sweeping national security law in June last year for end pro-democracy protests.
Authorities have denied any erosion of rights and freedoms in Hong Kong – which returned to China in 1997 on a “one country, two systems” formula aimed at preserving its freedoms and its role as a financial hub – but say national security of China is a red line.
Security officials have said law enforcement actions are evidence-based and have nothing to do with an individual’s political position, background or profession.