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Five members of a speech therapists’ union in Hong Kong have been arrested by the police who accuse them of instilling hatred of the government in children after the group published an allegorical children’s book in which a dozen sheep are harassed by wolves and have to flee by boat, only to be arrested and put in prison.

In the story, the sheep represent Hong Kong protesters and the wolves are the police.  The arrest of the individuals is the latest example of the effect of the new security law which has already seen the closing of Apple Daily, the pro-democracy newspaper.

According to a report in the New York Times, the police believed the union’s publications were “intended to rouse public hatred, especially among young children”, toward the government and legal authorities.

“It’s alarming not only for trade unions but also alarming for freedom of speech as a whole, for creative works and even using metaphor or commentary,” said Leo Tang, vice chairman of the Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions, an umbrella group for pro-democracy labour organizations.

The speech therapists’ union was founded in 2019 and says in its manifesto: “In Hong Kong right now, the powerless are the unheard, and their voices are not being listened to,” the union wrote in its manifesto. “We are a group of speech therapists, and we should walk with the unheard.”

Kristenn Einarsson, Chair of the International Publishers Association’s  Freedom to Publish Committee, said:  “RecentAFP reports from Hong Kong over book-related arrests are the latest developments to confirm that the new national security law is stifling the freedom to publish in Hong Kong. The arrests and freezing of accounts will undoubtedly have a chilling effect on more publishers in Hong Kong.”