On March 13, the officers of the National Security Department arrested two men for allegedly possessing the “Sheep Village” picture book, which was described as an “incitement publication.” The current Senior Superintendent, Steve Li Kwai-wah of the National Security Department, said in July 2021 that possessing a single publication would not lead to criminal liability.
The police never explained clearly how the arrestees broke the law, asking the public to self-censor and questioning whether possession of books such as “Apple Daily,” “1984,” and “Animal Farm” would also break the law.
Some commentators criticized the incident as similar to the incident of burning the Confucian classics and burying alive the Confucian scholars committed by the first Chinese emperor Qin Shi Huang.
In a joint operation with the National Security Department and Customs and Excise Department, two men, aged 38 and 50, were arrested in Kowloon and Hong Kong Island on suspicion of possession of seditious publications, contrary to section 10(2) of the Crimes Ordinance, Cap. 200.
Under court warrants, the police searched the homes and offices of the two arrested men. They seized several items which were said to be “seditious publications” that “have the effect of arousing hatred or contempt for the Central Government, the HKSAR Government, and the administration of justice in Hong Kong, inciting others to violence and counseling others to disobey the law.” It is reported that the publications are the “Sheep Village Guardian” series.
On July 22, 2021, the current Senior Superintendent, Steve Li Kwai-wah of the National Security Department, held a press conference and arrested the chairman, deputy chairman, secretary and treasurer, and others of the General Union of Speech Therapists for allegedly conspiring to publish seditious publications, including three children’s picture books, “The Guardians of Sheep Village, The 12 Heroes of Sheep Village, and The Garbage Collectors of Sheep Village,” in violation of Section 10 of the Crimes Ordinance.
Lee said on that day, if the store has the relevant picture books, it should stop distributing them, but also advised parents to dispose of the relevant publications. However, a single possession will not lead to criminal liability.
The Five Defendants in the Picture Book Case were Sentenced to 19 Months in Prison
On Sept. 7, 2022, Designated National Security Law District Court Judge Kwok Wai Kin found the five defendants in the picture bookcase guilty of “conspiracy to publish seditious publications.” It sentenced them to 19 months in prison. Between their arrest in July 2021 and their trial, all five were denied bail.
According to the judgments made by W.K. Kwok, the picture book created by the defendants was, in effect, a brainwashing exercise with a view to guiding the very young children to accept their views and values.
Kwok pointed out that the defendants also mobilized other persons sharing the same values as the seed of instability will be sown in China and Hong Kong. Kwok also mentioned an intention to incite persons to violence or to create a public disturbance or disorder for the purpose of disturbing constituted authority.
Kwok said the political situation appears to be calm on the surface but very volatile underneath. Under these circumstances, there is a strong pressing need to safeguard national security in Hong Kong to prevent riots and civil unrest of any magnitude from happening again.
He also said restrictions to freedom of expression and publication are necessary for the protection of national security and the protection of public order, making sedition an offence should be an even more important tool for the protection of national security
On Oct. 10, 2022, the five defendants were released from prison.
The Forwarding of the Picture Book Website Was Also an Offence
In January, the former elected representative of the Chinese University Student Union’s CW Chu College, Wong Ho Cheong, was charged with one or more counts of “doing an act or acts with seditious intention.”
The police alleged that he posted seditious messages on online social media platforms between November and December 2022, including re-posting messages from the “Sheep Village 2.0” page with the download URL of the “Sheep Village” picture book, and the words “Catch me if you can, motherfxxker” in his posts.
He also made a post on the “LIHKG Forum,” publishing the slogan “Liberate Hong Kong, the revolution of our times” and calling for resistance to mandatory building inspection measures.”
UN Urges Hong Kong to Repeal Sedition Provisions
On July 28, 2022, the United Nations Human Rights Committee (UNHRC) released an expert report expressing deep concern about the impact of the Hong Kong Extradition Bill and the crime of sedition on human rights.
The report states that the seditious offense under the Crimes Ordinance, which has been in place for many years, will be used again by the Hong Kong government in 2020.
The Commission is concerned about the arrest and prosecution of academics, journalists, and members of civil society for allegedly violating the crime of sedition and urges the Hong Kong government to repeal the National Security Law and the crime of sedition.
On Sept. 26, 2022, the representative of the European Union spoke at the United Nations Human Rights Council meeting, in which he specifically mentioned the human rights situation in Hong Kong and expressed deep concern about the National Security Law of Hong Kong and the re-invocation of the crime of sedition by the Hong Kong government, among which he mentioned the five people sentenced to imprisonment in the “Sheep Village Picture Book” case, reflecting the continuous deterioration of the freedoms protected by the Basic Law.