Police in Hong Kong arrested five authors of children’s books last week, accusing them of sedition.
The books–”The Guardians of Sheep Village,” “The Cleaner of Sheep Village” and “The 12 Brave Warriors of Sheep Village”—describe a community of sheep banding together and fighting off challenges from intruding wolves. The books are intended for children age 4 and above.
For their “seditious” parables, the five authors, members of the General Union of Hong Kong Speech Therapists, a labor group formed during the 2019 wave of anti-government protests, were taken away hooded, in handcuffs.
The arrested, two men and three women, are aged between 25 and 28 and could face up to two years imprisonment each. Police also froze 160,000 Hong Kong dollars ($20,600) of union assets.
A police senior superintendent later told a news conference the suspects sought to “stir hatred” among young children against the city’s government and judicial system, agitating for the use of violence and lawbreaking.
Police Senior Superintendent Steve Li told reporters at a news conference that the suspects sought to “stir hatred” among young children against the city’s government and the judicial system, agitating for the use of violence and lawbreaking.
“Don’t think that these are simple story books,” Li said. “These three books have a lot of seditious materials inside.”
The arrests were the latest in a Beijing-directed crackdown on dissent and free speech in Hong Kong, following the arrest of executives and editors of the pro-democracy newspaper Apple Daily, which has since shut down. The oppressive actions have been justified by a sweeping national security law that Beijing shoved down Hong Kong’s throat last year.
Certainly, the parables in the sheep books were aimed at challenging the increasingly repressive system that the Chinese government imposed on the once autonomous region. In this they find common ground with books through the ages, now considered classics, that were once banned for similar “crimes.”
Under the sway of a paranoid regime in Beijing, the Hong Kong authorities responded much as their masters have done to dissent, no matter how flippant.
This should come as no surprise.
After bloggers began comparing President Xi Jingping to Winnie the Pooh, the Chinese authorities simply banned “the silly old bear” from China.
Hong Kong’s pro-democracy forces, under the gun, arrested or otherwise silenced, might draw some solace from the words of Christopher Robin, if they can still find them—“You’re braver than you believe, stronger than you seem and smarter than you think.”