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Jailed over a children’s book

Protestors pose with sheep masks outside West Kowloon Court, Hong Kong. Isaac Lawrence/Getty

You know a government has lost the plot “when it punishes publishers of children’s books”, says The Wall Street Journal. But that’s where the “Beijing supplicants” in charge of Hong Kong have taken the once-free island: last week, Judge Kwok Wai Kin convicted five executives for “seditious conspiracy” after they published three books about “sheep menaced by wolves”. Hong Kong’s “lupine leaders” claimed the story was intended to incite “hatred or contempt or to excite disaffection” against the government. So, thanks to a national security law that criminalises dissent – passed after millions of Hong Kongers marched in 2019 in defence of their liberties and the rule of law – each of the five received a 19-month jail sentence.

“Nearly all of Hong Kong’s political opposition is now in jail or exile.” And it’s not getting any better. Protests might have calmed down, wrote Kwok, explaining the conviction, but “it is clear that these people have little change in their attitude”. The judge is telling Hong Kongers they can be arrested for their “attitude” – “no one is safe from political arrest when that is the law”. As a British colony until 1997, and even in its early years under Chinese rule, Hong Kong was a “haven for free expression”. No longer. “China’s President Xi Jinping is the real wolf in this tragic tale, and Hong Kong’s dutiful functionaries such as Judge Kwok are the sheep.”