A judge in Hong Kong has convicted five speech therapists of publishing children's books labeled by authorities as seditious.
In the books, there are cartoon depictions of sheep fleeing from invading wolves. The judge found that the images could incite hatred against China, the BBC reported.
According to the Guardian, prosecutors in the case argued that the cartoon animals in the children's books were meant to represent residents of Hong Kong put up against those from China and was meant to incite hatred.
The defense in the case argued that the therapists did not incite hate and that the fictional story was open to interpretation.
Judge Kwok Wai-kin said in his verdict that the books were written in a way that could guide a reader and said the publishers did not recognize Beijing's sovereignty over Hong Kong.
Judge Kwok is on a panel of judges selected by Hong Kong's leader focusing on "national security," the Guardian reported.
Kwok wrote, “The seditious intention stems not merely from the words, but from the words with the proscribed effects intended to result in the mind of children.”
He said, “Children will be led into the belief that the PRC [People’s Republic of China] government is coming to Hong Kong with the wicked intention of taking away their home and ruining their happy life with no right to do so at all.”
The British government handed over Hong Kong in 1997, but China first agreed to give the region "considerable political autonomy" for the next 50 years, accordingto the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR).
The agreement was made within a framework known as the "one country, two systems" policy.
Beijing, though, has been seen as cracking down on Hong Kong's freedoms in recent years, according to CFR. The increased pressure has led to mass protests in Hong Kong with international condemnation of the pressure by China's ruling party.
A new national security law imposed by Beijing in 2020 gave China's government sweeping new powers allowing critics to be punished and dissenters to be silenced.