Oh, for flock's sake..!
“We will not accept sanctimonious preaching from those who feel they have the right to lecture us. Anyone who would attempt to do so will find themselves on a collision course with a great wall of steel forged by over 1.4 billion Chinese people.”
So spouteth President Xi Jinping.
Followed closely behind by Rong Ying, Vice President of the China Institute of International Studies, who piped up with: "No country has any rights to criticize China or interfere in China's internal affairs."
Well, yeah, we kinda do, seeing as we have what we call freedom of speech, unlike the folk of Hong Kong, stifled by your recently introduced National Security Law.
But it isn't us pesky foreigners that have got the Chinese Communist Party so riled up. It's - wait for it - three children's books.
Yep, that's them. Published under the titles: The Guardians of Sheep Village, The Janitors of Sheep Village and The Twelve Heroes of Sheep Village.
The books were published by the members of a pro-democracy Hong Kong union, who, under HK's new law, have been arrested for sedition.
The bloke wearing the mask (probably to hide his shame and embarrassment, rather than to protect him against Covid), is brave Senior Superintendent Li Kwai-wah, from the city's new National Security police unit, who displayed the three offending titles at an afternoon press conference.
Published by the General Union of Hong Kong Speech Therapists, the books try (or I should say tried) to explain Hong Kong's democracy movement to children.
Well, you can see the problem right there. It's that word: 'democracy'.
Anyways, in the stories, democracy supporters are portrayed as sheep living in a village surrounded by wolves. The first book, Guardians, explains the 2019 pro-democracy protests that swept through Hong Kong.
Janitors, the second book, sees cleaners in the village going on strike to force out wolves who leave litter everywhere (the book's intro explains it's a reference to Hong Kong medical workers striking last year in a bid to force the government to close the border with mainland China at the start of the coronavirus pandemic).
The final book in the trilogy, Heroes, is about a group of sheep who flee their village by boat because of the wolves. That's a reference to the twelve Hong Kongers who made a failed bid to escape by speedboat last year to Taiwan but were detained by the Chinese coastguard and jailed.
Flicking through the pages of the books, Superintendent Li said the content was deemed seditious because it was aimed at 'stirring up hatred' towards the government and judiciary and 'inciting violence'. He went on to say. 'These stories beautify violent acts, paint fugitives as heroes and justify the strike by the medical staff. It is trying to poison our children.'
He said police decided to act because the union was planning upcoming public reading events and called on both parents and any shops that might stock the book to throw them away.
Two men and three women from the union have been arrested while HK$160,000 ($20,600) in funds have been frozen under the new National Security Law.
Sedition's a colonial-era law that until last year had not been used since Hong Kong's 1997 handover to China. It carries up to two years in jail for a first offence and police and prosecutors are now using it regularly, alongside the N S Law, to clamp down on political speech and views. Those arrested for such crimes are denied bail.
Over the last year, most of the city's best known democracy figures have been jailed, prosecuted, or have fled overseas.
Under the 'One country, two systems' deal, Beijing promised Hong Kong could keep key freedoms and autonomy after its 1997 handover. Well, yeah, so much for that idea, Beijing having ramped up its control over Hong Kong and brought in mainland style censorship controls after 2019's huge protests.
This isn't the first time the NS Law has been used against the Arts and the Media. Other books seen as seditious have been removed from schools and libraries. There's been an overhaul of school textbooks to remove any that have been deemed 'unpatriotic' and new censorship rules for films have also been introduced. Last month saw the closure of Apple Daily newspaper.
(Info above courtesy of Jerome TAYLOR / Yan ZHAO - Agence France-Presse)
ps...but do you know what's particularly delicious about this?
Hong Kong's Chief Executive is called Carrie Lam...!
Yeah I know, it's missing the 'b', but come on, you gotta admit it's still brilliant!
I have no idea what they're all holding. My first thought was tiny toilet seats, symbols of how many of Hong Kong's freedoms they've flushed away since the handover.