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Published: 00:36, September 28, 2022 | Updated: 09:48, September 28, 2022
Biased Western media continues to besmirch Hong Kong’s legal system
By Stanley Chan
Published:00:36, September 28, 2022 Updated:09:48, September 28, 2022 By Stanley Chan

Earlier this month, District Court Judge Kwok Wai-kin convicted five office-bearers of the General Union of Hong Kong Speech Therapists (now defunct) after a trial for the offense of “conspiracy to print, publish, distribute, display and/or reproduce seditious publications” and sentenced the five defendants to 19 months of imprisonment each. They were, according to the prosecution’s case, accused of publishing three picture books with a view to undermining national security with a portrayal of the central government as a “cold-blooded, totalitarian and ruthless” regime.

It was noted that the offense was not one of the crimes stipulated in the National Security Law for Hong Kong, which was enacted in June 2020 by the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, but an ancient legislation that had been in existence in Hong Kong since 1938. However, the offense of “sedition” had not been laid against anyone since the 1997 handover. In fact, the last time that defendants were charged with sedition in Hong Kong was 55 years ago. Some Western media, upon learning the result of the trial, hastened to accuse the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region government of “suppression of freedom of expression”. Amnesty International claimed this was “an absurd example of the disintegration of human rights in the city”. Given their jaundiced attitude against anything relating to China, I have no surprise to see such comments, which were apparently made without fact-checking.

The five defendants, aged 25 to 28, soon after establishing the General Union of Hong Kong Speech Therapists, published three picture books between June 2020 and March 2021 targeting children aged 4 years old and above. The books depicted stories of struggles between sheep and a group of intruding wolves. In the books, the wolves were described as evil, bloodthirsty, and filthy, and indulged in spitting, littering rubbish, and were trying to take away the homes of the “kind sheep” and to ruin their happy life in the village. In one of the three books, 12 “brave sheep” were said to be wanted by the wolves and then they planned an escape but were eventually captured by the wolves. It clearly glorified the 12 fugitives — all had committed serious crimes such as rioting, arson, possession of explosives etc. — who were caught in Chinese waters when attempting to flee to Taiwan in August 2020. The public prosecutors said the five defendants, by producing the books and advocating their political stances at street booths and during interviews by media, had been persistent in smearing Beijing and the Hong Kong SAR government by using defamatory analogies. I consider that these were systematically orchestrated efforts with a wicked plan to instill hatred of China and hostility against the Hong Kong Police Force into children.

Judge Kwok used 21 months as the starting point of the jail sentence but reduced it to 19 months. The five defendants should consider themselves fortunate since the offense of sedition carries a maximum sentence of two years only. If it is an offense stipulated in the National Security Law, the minimum prison term is three years. My guess is that the Department of Justice did not find Article 21 or Article 23 of the NSL applicable in this case, as the seditious acts as promulgated in the two articles cover only “secession” and “subversion”. Nevertheless, Judge Kwok rightly pointed out that the acts of the five defendants had seriously impaired the integrity of the nation by spreading “rumors, misinformation and disinformation”. Indeed, the books and the video clips introducing their content could stir up groundless animosity toward the government as well as disgust at compatriots from the Chinese mainland. We note that the five defendants did not express remorse in their mitigation submissions. Two of them, both females, made some provocative statements in person (after sacking their lawyers), and one of them even stated that she regretted not being able to publish more copies before she was arrested. With such defiant behavior, they should have received no reduction in their prison terms, and yet Judge Kwok was kind enough to hand down a sentence that was not excessive, unlike what the Western critics had said.

The three picture books are simply not the type of reading material that we should see in a kindergarten. These are not Aesop’s Fables. They were designed by a group of feverish anti-China young people to brainwash children in Hong Kong, with a hope that the latter will be a source of new blood in the campaigns against Beijing.

Without fact-checking, media in the West are just parroting one another, making untrue and unfair accusations.

The author is a practicing solicitor in Hong Kong, specializing in criminal law and cross-boundary legal matters between the Chinese mainland and the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.

The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.  

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