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Chinese authorities have arrested five speech therapists in Hong Kong for publishing children’s books that reportedly contained anti-Beijing sentiment.
The five therapists, who were arrested over a year ago, are finally facing trial for charges of sedition for a series of books about a village of sheep and a village of wolves. The books very clearly differentiate the two towns as good and bad, with the wolves’ society bearing a striking resemblance to mainland China.
The books depict the society of wolves — monitored by CCTV cameras — plotting an infiltration of the sheep village after their shepherd has left.
The characters are clear analogues of mainland China, Hong Kong and the former British government of the island.
“[The books’] combined effect was to influence or educate readers to neither be Chinese nor have a sense of belonging to the country,” said Laura Ng Shuk-kuen, the leading prosecutor, according to the South China Morning Post.
“[The books] effectively instilled into readers [sentiments of] separatism, tribalism and betrayal of their country, resulting in the loss of national identity, as well as damage to Chinese sovereignty, territorial integrity and the long-term stability of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region,” the SCMP translation of Shuk-kuen’s opening statement continued.
After taking over the village, the wolves announced that a new rule would allow any wolf to eat any sheep they like. The sheep resisted and were “beaten in the eyes” and “beaten in the legs” but eventually expelled the wolves from their village.
The books also made explicit references to real-life political controversies including the arrest of would-be Hong Kong escapees.
The defendants, all in their twenties, are members and officers of Hong Kong’s former speech therapists union — Lorie Lai Man-ling, Samuel Chan Yuen-sum, Marco Fong Tsz-ho, Melody Yeung Yat-yee and Sidney Ng Hau-yi.
Chinese leader Xi Jinping arrived in Hong Kong on Thursday ahead of the 25th anniversary of the British handover and after a two-year transformation bringing the city more tightly under Communist Party control. It is Xi’s first trip outside of mainland China in nearly 2 ½ years.
Supporters waving Chinese and Hong Kong flags chanted, “Welcome, welcome! Warm welcome!” as Xi’s train pulled into the train station.
Xi and his wife, Peng Liyuan, were welcomed by city leader Carrie Lam as they alighted the train. Xi waved at supporters who welcomed him on the platform, and later greeted John Lee, the city’s incoming leader, and Leung Chun-ying, a former chief executive of the city, along with other officials.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.