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Wednesday, Sep 27, 2023

Hong Kong cartoonist says satirical comic strip axed after government pressure

Hong Kong cartoonist Wong Kei-kwan, also known as Zunzi, said his satirical comic strip was axed after he had been told numerous times by Ming Pao newspaper of government complaints about his work.
The newspaper stopped publishing the works of Wong, one of the city’s most prominent political cartoonists, from Sunday. It did not elaborate on why it would stop publishing his works. “Ming Pao would like to express gratitude to Zunzi for witnessing how times have changed with us over the last four decades,” its editorial department said, referring to Wong by his pen name.

The comic strip was one of Hong Kong's most prominent political cartoons, which has been running since 1983 and is famous for its satirical take on Hong Kong and Chinese politics and society.

Wong, 67, told reuters in an interview that he had been told numerous times by Ming Pao of official complaints about his work, most recently this week.

"My sense is that the pressure is building up and it won't stop without change," he said.

In April, Hong Kong's security chief Chris Tang Ping-keung called one of the cartoons "misleading" after it depicted a man saying a recent increase in Hong Kong security spending would mean more prisoners, more prisons, more prison guards, and more judges.

Wong appeared resigned to the end of his cartoon strip while saying: "The situation continues to develop in a bad direction".

"There are still many journalists who continue to speak out on different platforms, and comics are only one form," he said.

"I will continue to speak out when I have the opportunity."

The comic strip had been one of the few remaining spaces for unflinching criticism in the Hong Kong media following China's imposition of a national security law in 2020 following months of pro-democracy protests in 2019.

"The incident reflects that critical voices cannot be tolerated in Hong Kong, and freedom of speech has been further narrowed, which is harmful to society," the Hong Kong Journalists Association said in a statement.

The city, once a base for international media covering not only China but the region, and home to a spirited domestic media, ranked 140 out of 180 regions in a global press freedom index compiled by media rights group Reporters without Borders. It ranked 73 in 2019.

Hong Kong authorities have repeatedly emphasized that media freedoms are respected and enshrined in law.

But police have raided and shut down several liberal media outlets including the Apple Daily newspaper and Stand News.

Public broadcaster RTHK has cut satirical shows and toned down its coverage after being criticized by pro-China politicians and officials.

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