five authors of children’s books sentenced for “sedition”

In Hong Kong, the repression of representatives of the pro-democracy camp and freedom of expression continues. The president of the journalists’ union was arrested on Wednesday, September 7, and five authors of books explaining the democratic movement to children were sentenced to “sedition”.

Ronson Chan, president of the Hong Kong Journalists Association, was arrested for obstructing law enforcement and disturbing public order, Agence France-Presse learned from a police source, confirming information published in local media. . The police confirmed that a 41-year-old man named Chan was arrested after he refused to show his ID card to officers and behaved in a disorderly manner. “uncooperative” despite many warnings.

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Channel C, the online news agency Mr Chan works for, said the reporter was picked up by police officers while reporting on a meeting of council house owners. Mr. is expected to leave. Chan in Hong Kong at the end of September after winning a scholarship to attend a six-month program at the Reuters Institute at Oxford University.

Like many civil society groups and pro-democracy unions that have now been shut down, Ronson Chan and the Hong Kong Journalists Association have come under heavy criticism from media outlets reporting to the city’s Beijing Liaison Office. Often, police interventions follow such complaints.

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Massive campaign to suppress dissent

After one hundred and fifty-six years of British colonization (1841-1997), followed by twenty-five more under Chinese sovereignty, Hong Kong lost – in less than three years – most of its nature of his identity. Despite an unsuccessful democratization process, Hong Kong is so far the only part of Chinese territory that enjoys a strong rule of law, based on independent justice provided by local and foreign judges. judges, a political opposition, great freedom of worship, a free press, no regulation. internet access, world-class universities and open borders.

These attributes are intended to last until at least 2047. During the process of Hong Kong’s retrocession to China by the United Kingdom, which ended in 1997, Beijing actually made use of the principle. “one country, two systems” for fifty years. But upon entering the region, the 1er July 2022, in the second half of this period, it is clear that Hong Kong has changed. The authorities there are now launching a wide-ranging campaign to suppress dissent, following large, and sometimes violent, pro-democracy demonstrations in 2019.

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Falling in the ranks of freedom of the press

Victim of this pressure, the newspaper Everyday Apple and the online information platform StandNews – where Mr Chan worked – were both shut down last year after some of their executives were accused of violating national security laws. In 2021, Hong Kong fell sixty-eight places in the Reporters Without Borders (RSF) press freedom ranking, published in May 2022, to reach 148th place worldwide. When RSF published its first report in 2002, Hong Kong was ranked 18th.

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The Hong Kong Foreign Press Club even waived the prestigious Asia Human Rights Press Prize this year, due to the security law; his decision sparked controversy among many member journalists. In addition, the city’s public radio, RTHK, is increasingly resembling Chinese state media after being overhauled by government order.

“Seditious intent does not just come from words”

In this context of increasing repression, on Wednesday September 7 a court in Hong Kong convicted of sedition five people who produced four illustrated electronic books aimed at explaining the democratic movement in Hong Kong If to the children. In the book Sheep Village Defenders, a group of wolves tried to occupy a village of sheep, who defended themselves. On the other hand, wolves are described as unclean and bringing disease to the sheep village.

All members of a trade union, the five Hong Kong nationals were found guilty of “conspiring to print, publish, sell, offer for sale, distribute, exhibit or copying a seditious publication”. Lai Man-ling, Melody Yeung, Sidney Ng, Samuel Chan and Fong Tsz-ho, all founding members of the speech therapists union behind the books, were jailed for more than a year before their verdict.

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After a two-month trial, Kwok Wai-kin, a district court judge appointed by the government to hear national security cases, wrote his verdict: “The seditious intent is not only from words, but from words that have forbidden effects that are intended to resonate in the minds of children. »

During the trial, prosecutors argued that the books contained a “anti-Chinese sentiment” and addressed to “Inciting readers to hate against continental authorities”. They also said the books were intended to encourage Hong Kong people to be prejudiced “Mainland Chinese living in Hong Kong”. Finally, the conviction was based on a sedition offense dating back to when the city was under British rule.

The defense argued that the offense of sedition was not well defined and that each reader should make up their own mind about what the characters in the books represented. He also warned that such a ruling would further harm political criticism and have a chilling effect on society.

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The World with AFP

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