Hong Kong Jails Five Speech Therapists For Sedition Over Children’s Books
Hong Kong jailed five speech therapists for sedition on Saturday over a series of illustrated children’s books that portrayed the city’s democracy supporters as sheep defending their village from wolves.
They join a growing list of residents jailed under a colonial-era sedition offence which authorities have deployed alongside a national security law introduced by Beijing in 2020 to stamp out dissent.
The group, who are all in their twenties and belonged to a speech therapists’ union, have been behind bars for over a year while awaiting a verdict.
They were all handed a 19-month jail term for a picture book series that began in 2020 to explain Hong Kong’s democracy movement to children. The group could be released in 31 days after deductions for time served, one of their lawyers estimated.
Three of them struck a defiant tone during Saturday’s sentencing.
Melody Yeung told the court she did not regret her choices and hopes to always stand on the side of the sheep.
“My only regret is I couldn’t publish more picture books before getting arrested.”
Defendant Sidney Ng’s lawyer quoted his client as saying the prosecution “had the objective effect of intimidating civil society and alienating Hong Kongers from one another”.
Judge Kwok Wai-kin scolded the defendents for “brainwashing” children and sowing the “seed of instability” in the city and across China.
The judge, handpicked by Hong Kong’s leader from a pool of jurists to hear national security cases, had convicted the group on Wednesday for conspiring to spread seditious content.
– ‘People’s history’ –
Prosecutors had argued the books contained “anti-China sentiment” and were aimed at “inciting readers’ hatred against the mainland authorities”.
In one book, a village of sheep fights off invading wolves, while another portrays the canines as spreading disease in the ovine hamlet.
On Saturday, the judge said the books were “a brainwashing exercise” and there was clear evidence of fear, hatred and discontent being instilled in children’s minds.
“Once (the children) had internalised this mindset, the seed of instability will be sowed,” he said.
But the defendants maintained the books chronicled “history from the people’s perspective” and were meant to help children understand systemic injustice in society.
“Rather than being seditious, (the books) were recording courageous acts for a just cause,” Ng said.
Amnesty International, which recently exited Hong Kong because of the national security law, described the convictions as “an absurd example of unrelenting repression”.
Hong Kong was a bastion of free expression within China and home to a vibrant and outspoken publishing industry.
But Beijing has unleashed a sweeping political crackdown on the city in response to huge and sometimes violent democracy protests three years ago.
The sedition law, which carries a maximum sentence of two years in jail, was dormant for decades but has recently been embraced by police and prosecutors.
Taliban Governor Of Afghan Province Killed In Suicide Attack In His Office
The Taliban governor of Afghanistan’s Balkh province, known for fighting against Islamic State jihadists, was killed in a suicide attack at his office on Thursday, officials said.
The killing, a day after he met top government officials visiting from Kabul, makes Mohammad Dawood Muzammil one of the highest-ranking figures slain since the Taliban stormed back to power in 2021.
Violence across Afghanistan has dramatically dropped since the Taliban seized control, but the security situation has again deteriorated with IS claiming several deadly attacks.
“Two people, including Mohammad Dawood Muzammil, the governor of Balkh, have been killed in an explosion this morning,” local police spokesman Asif Waziri told AFP, adding that the blast happened on the second floor of his office, in the provincial capital Mazar-i-Sharif.
“It was a suicide attack. We don’t have information as to how the suicide bomber reached the office of the governor,” he said, adding that two people were also wounded.
Authorities deployed extra security at the governorate, who forbade journalists from taking photos, an AFP correspondent reported from near the site of the blast.
Muzammil was “martyred in an explosion by the enemies of Islam”, tweeted government spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid.
Muzammil was initially appointed governor of the eastern province of Nangarhar, where he led the fight against IS jihadists, before being moved to Balkh last year.
On Wednesday, he met two deputy prime ministers and other senior officials visiting Balkh to review a major irrigation project in northern Afghanistan, according to a government statement.
IS has emerged as the biggest security challenge to the Taliban government since last year, carrying out attacks against Afghan civilians as well as foreigners and foreign interests.
Several attacks have rocked Balkh, including in Mazar-i-Sharif last year, some claimed by IS.
In January, a suicide bomber killed at least 10 people when he blew himself up near the foreign ministry in Kabul, in an attack claimed by IS.
The Taliban and IS share an austere Sunni Islamist ideology, but the latter are fighting to establish a global “caliphate” instead of the Taliban’s more inward-looking goal of ruling an independent Afghanistan.
At least five Chinese nationals were wounded in December when gunmen stormed a hotel popular with businesspeople in Kabul.
That raid was claimed by IS, as was an attack on Pakistan’s embassy in Kabul in December that Islamabad denounced as an “assassination attempt” against its ambassador.
Two Russian embassy staff members were killed in a suicide bombing outside their mission in September in another attack claimed by IS.
Turkish Rescuers Pull Three Survivors From Rubble 13 Days After Earthquake
Turkish rescuers on Saturday pulled three people, including a child, alive from the rubble 13 days after a massive quake claimed tens of thousands of lives, but one later died, a Turkey media platform reported.
The channel did not provide any further details.
A journalist for Turkish television channel NTV later reported that one of those found had died after being taken to hospital.
NTV broadcast images of rescuers placing the rescued people onto stretchers after they had spent 296 hours trapped in the rubble.
A 7.8-magnitude tremor on February 6 rocked southeastern Turkey and Syria, killing more than 43,000 people and leaving millions without proper shelter.
Teams have been finding survivors all week despite them being stuck for so long under the rubble in freezing weather, but their numbers have dropped to just a handful in the past few days.
Turkish rescuers on Friday pulled a 45-year-old man from rubble, several hours after others discovered three people including a 14-year-old boy alive under debris.
Ghana Footballer Christian Atsu Found Dead In Turkey Earthquake Rubble
The body of former Ghana international Christian Atsu has been found after a devastating earthquake in Turkey, local media reported Saturday, quoting his manager.
Atsu, 31, was caught up in a 7.8-magnitude quake that rocked Turkey and Syria on February 6, killing more than 43,000 people in both countries.
There were initial reports the former Chelsea and Newcastle player had been rescued a day after the quake, but these turned out to be false.
His manager in Turkey, Murat Uzunmehmet, told DHA news agency on Saturday that his body had been found under the rubble in the Turkish southern province of Hatay.
“We have reached his lifeless body. His belongings are still being removed. His phone was also found,” Uzunmehmet told DHA.
Ghana’s ministry of foreign affairs said it had “received the unfortunate news”.
“The elder brother and twin sister of Christian Atsu and an officer of the (Ghanaian) embassy were present at the site when the body was recovered,” the ministry said in a statement.
Ghana said it was working with the Turkish government to organise the transport of the body back to Atsu’s home country for burial.
Midfielder Atsu spent four seasons at Chelsea before a permanent transfer to Newcastle in 2017. He signed last September for Turkish Super Lig side Hatayspor.
Chelsea issued a statement declaring: “It is with enormous sadness that Chelsea Football Club receives the news that Christian Atsu is confirmed as one of the many victims of the dreadful earthquake in Turkey and Syria.”
Newcastle also paid hommage to “a talented player and a special person”.
The club added: “He will always be fondly remembered by our players, staff and supporters.
“Initially joining on loan, he played a key role in the Magpies squad that secured the Championship title in 2017 before making a permanent move to help us establish our place back in the Premier League.”
Search and rescue workers found Atsu’s body where he was staying at Ronesans Residence, a block of high-rise luxury flats that toppled over in Antakya city in Hatay.
Turkish police arrested the building’s contractor at Istanbul airport last week as he appeared to be heading to Montenegro, according to state news agency Anadolu.