Hong Kong newspaper Ming Pao to stop publishing cartoonist Zunzi after government complaints

By AP News


A Hong Kong newspaper will stop publishing works by the city’s most prominent political cartoonist after his drawings drew government complaints

Hong Kong Political Cartoonist

HONG KONG (AP) — A Hong Kong newspaper will stop publishing works by the city’s most prominent political cartoonist after his drawings drew government complaints, in another example of hushed speech and media voices after a Beijing-led crackdown.

Chinese-language newspaper Ming Pao did not elaborate on why it would end its 40-year partnership with Wong Kei-kwan on Sunday in its announcement. Wong, better known by his pen name Zunzi, told The Associated Press the decision was made through mutual consultation.

“Everyone knows why publication has to be halted, but no one will ‘confirm’ the reason,” he said in a text message Thursday to the AP with two emojis showing a laughing face.

His comic drawings caricatured Hong Kong society’s frustrations since before the then-British colony was returned to Chinese rule in 1997.

The newspaper and the government departments that complained about Wong’s drawings have not responded to requests for comment.

Wong said he feels the city’s freedoms of speech and expression are shrinking but that he will continue to create as long as he is able to. He will try to find other channels to publish his future cartoons, he added.

“Honestly, I appreciate very much that Ming Pao let my cartoons be published until now. If it had been other platforms, the halting of publication would have happened way earlier,” Wong said.

After Beijing imposed a national security law following massive pro-democracy protests in 2019, the city’s art and media communities have learned to be wary of crossing vaguely defined red lines in producing art and other content that might be perceived as challenging Communist Party control. Authorities have also increasingly used a colonial-era sedition law to target critical voices.

Multiple cartoons by Wong have been criticized in recent months by different government units, including the security bureau. Most recently, the Home and Youth Affairs Bureau slammed his work for “smearing” the government's role of appointing local committee members who will choose candidates in district council elections later this year.

In his drawing, a man tells a woman that even if some people failed exams and have health problems, they can also be appointed to the committees as long as the “senior officers” deemed they are suitable.

According to the government plan to overhaul district councils, local committees staffed by many government supporters will choose about 40% of the 470 seats. The councils were the last major political representative bodies chosen by the public in Hong Kong and will be reduced from some 90% directly elected seats to about 20%, even lower than the level set up under British colonial rule.

“Ming Pao would like to express gratitude to Zunzi for witnessing how times have changed with us over the last four decades,” the newspaper's editorial department said in its announcement.

The Ming Pao Staff Association on its Facebook page expressed regret that Wong's works will no longer be featured in the newspaper.

“Other than news reports, the works of columnists are also a part of Ming Pao's core value,” it wrote. “A diversified society should be inclusive of different voices. We hope all sectors can respect freedom of speech.”


Author: AP News

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