Hong Kong man jailed for importing ‘seditious’ children’s books

Hong Kong man jailed for importing ‘seditious’ children’s books
Hong Kong man jailed for importing ‘seditious’ children’s books

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Nevin Al Sukari - Sana'a - A Hong Kong man was sentenced to jail today after importing seditious children’s books that portrayed the city’s democracy supporters as sheep defending their village from wolves. — Reuters pic

HONG KONG, Oct 6 — A Hong Kong man was sentenced to jail today after importing “seditious” children’s books that portrayed the city’s democracy supporters as sheep defending their village from wolves.

Following massive democracy protests in the Chinese city in 2019, authorities have revived a colonial-era sedition offence to jail dozens of residents, which critics have decried as political suppression.

Finance company worker Kurt Leung, 38, was sentenced to four months in prison after he pleaded guilty to “importing seditious publications” — the first known conviction of its kind in recent years.

One of the books fictionalised the closure of pro-democracy newspaper Apple Daily and told a story similar to The Emperor’s New Clothes where truth-telling sheep were punished, the court heard today.

Prosecutors said Leung and his boss worked together to import 18 picture books — in three sets of six — from the United Kingdom via mail.

Leung took receipt of the delivery at their office address and was arrested on March 13.

The books spread “twisted values and inaccurate messages” to children by painting Beijing as the “evil and barbaric invader”, chief magistrate Victor So said in his ruling.

“If seditious thoughts were to take root in the younger generation, those thoughts may grow and the effect may spread across generations,” So said.

“Any sensible person can tell that the books are seditious,” he added.

Defence lawyer Anson Wong told the court on Friday there was no evidence that the books were distributed or that Leung had seditious intent.

“The books objectively had the (seditious) intention, but the defendant subjectively did not,” Wong said, adding that prosecutors had agreed.

In a letter to the court, Leung offered “sincere apologies” but the chief magistrate said the sentence must have an element of deterrence.

The crime of importing seditious publication carries a maximum penalty of two years’ imprisonment for first-time offenders.

In recent years, the sedition offence has often been used by Hong Kong prosecutors in parallel with a sweeping national security law that Beijing imposed in 2020.

Sedition cases often involved defendants with no public profile, in contrast to security law cases which mostly target well-known activists and politicians.

In September 2022, the original creators of the “sheep village” series — five speech therapists — were each jailed for 19 months in a separate sedition prosecution. — AFP

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