Hong Kong’s recent crackdown on pro-democracy dissent entered the realm of children’s literature on July 22 with the arrest of five members of a speech therapist union behind the publishing of children’s books.
The main book that prompted the arrest was a children’s illustration of the 12 activists arrested at sea trying to escape to Taiwan from Hong Kong in August 2020. The book portrayed the Hong Kong police as harassing wolves and the activists as innocent sheep.
Hong Kong officials believed the union’s publications endangered National Security Laws, or NSLs, and were intended to arouse public hatred, especially among young children toward the Chinese Communist Party, or CCP.
Two men and three women, all unidentified, between ages 25 and 28, were arrested. First-time convictions under the colonial-era NSL carry a maximum penalty of two years in prison.
The arrests were the latest under the NSL, which passed in June 2020. Other recent crackdowns include the denial of bail to four former staff members of Jimmy Lai’s now-closed pro-democracy newspaper, Apple Daily, along with the CCP’s eighth arrest of an Apple Daily executive on Wednesday.
Police also froze HK$160,000 in assets linked to the union.
“They are using children’s cartoons to simplify and beautify illegal behavior on political issues,” said Steve Li, senior superintendent of the National Security Department. Li urged parents and shops to throw away books that are “poisoning our children.”
The speech therapist’s union was formed in 2019, during the peak of anti-government protests that challenged the political power of the pre-existing labor groups aligned with Beijing.
The union has published two other children’s books. One book released in early 2020 tells the story of the sheep organizing to kill the wolves, who are perceived as dangerous, to keep them out of their village. The story represents lobbying groups in Hong Kong that were in opposition to open borders with mainland China, to control the spread of the Coronavirus. The other published book was a reading guide for parents on how to read the stories with their children.
National Security officials have denied any erosion of rights and freedoms in Hong Kong. The former British Colony aims to preserve its freedoms as a global financial powerhouse, but national security continues to be a struggle.
Since the implementation of the NSL, more than 100 pro-democracy supporters have been arrested, and even more have fled abroad.
Increasing intensity of censorship proves to penetrate further into Chinese civil life. From journalism to children’s literature, the CCP makes examples out of those who violate the ever-increasing NSLs, instilling fear in Chinese citizens.