Hong Kong speech therapists sentenced to 19 months in prison for children’s books

A Hong Kong court has sentenced five speech therapists to almost two years in prison for their role in publishing children’s books deemed seditious.

The sanctions are the latest sign of China’s hard line against free speech and any sign of political opposition in the city following anti-government protests in 2019.

Beijing responded to the months-long protests by imposing a sweeping national security law and disqualifying, jailing or silencing political opponents, many of whom have sought asylum abroad.

The five defendants have already been jailed for more than a year and could be released early under the 19-month sentence handed down on Saturday.

Li Kwai-wah of the police’s National Security Department speaks in front of a screen showing evidence of three children’s books revolving around a village of sheep that has to deal with wolves from another village, before a press conference in Hong Kong (Vincent Yu/AP)

They had pleaded not guilty but were found guilty of sedition on Wednesday after printing a series of children’s books about sheep and wolves which a court ruled were intended to incite hatred against authorities.

The crackdown has led to criticism that China’s ruling Communist Party reneged on its 1997 promise when Hong Kong was transferred from Britain to China to retain the city’s Western-style freedoms, including freedom of expression.

Hong Kong authorities have purged and imprisoned politicians and teachers associated with the pro-democracy camp, shut down newspapers and removed publications and artwork deemed critical of the Communist Party, which tolerates no opposition.

Recent days have also seen the arrest of Ronson Chan, president of the Hong Kong Journalists Association, for allegedly refusing to provide identification while reporting on housing.

Colin L. Johnson