Today, the Ming Pao newspaper announced that it would suspend the publication of the works of the political cartoonist “Zunzi” this Sunday (14 May) without providing a reason for the suspension. We at the Hong Kong Media Association (HKMO) express deep disappointment and sorrow over Ming Pao’s decision, which also reflects the continuous suppression of Hong Kong media organisations and media workers by the Hong Kong SAR government, damaging and curtail freedom of speech and the press in Hong Kong.
Political cartoonist Wong Kei-kwan has been using “Zunzi” as his pen name to create political cartoons since 1983. His works have been published in mainstream Hong Kong newspapers, including Ming Pao and Apple Daily which was forced to close down in 2021 under political pressure by the Hong Kong SAR.
Since October last year, several government departments, including the Hong Kong Police, the Labor and Welfare Bureau, the Leisure and Cultural Services Department, Culture, Sports and Tourism Bureau, the Chief Secretary for Administration and the Security Bureau have criticized “Zunzi’s Cartoon” publicly. These action reflect the HKSAR using its power to suppress dissidence whenever the regime sees fit. In the past, when press freedom was respected and cherished in Hong Kong, using political cartoons to criticise the government was just part of daily life for Hong Kong people and a routine task for Hong Kong media and journalism.
The Hong Kong SAR government using its power to suppress political cartoons in this case is not the first occurrence. Justin Wong Chiu-tat, a political cartoonist and an Assistant Professor at the Academy of Visual Arts in Hong Kong Baptist University, who published his work in Ming Pao on September 17, 2021, was heavily criticized by the Hong Kong police. The Hong Kong police said Justin Wong’s cartoon was falsely accused the police force, and that the department was deeply concerned and dismayed over the cartoon and demanded a clarificatiion from Ming Pao.
The United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (the Committee) released its fourth reportsubmitted by the Hong Kong SAR government under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) in March. The the Committee explicitly expressed concerns about the implementation of the National Security Law in the region, harassment of cartoonists, arbitrary arrests, as well as the censorship of satirical cultural content online and offline, such as independent films, dramas, podcasts, and radio broadcasts. Instead of adhering to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the government of the Special Administrative Region has further restricted the space for freedom of speech and press freedom.
Last week (May 3, 2023), Reporters Without Borders (RSF) ranked Hong Kong 140th out of 180 countries and regions in its World Press Freedom Index, indicating that Hong Kong faces a “difficult” situation in terms of press freedom.
Joseph Ngan, the Chairman of the Hong Kong Media Association (HKMO), stated in an interview with The Voice of America and said: “We see that the current state of press freedom in Hong Kong is full of red lines. Whether it is from the government’s censorship pressure or the self-censorship of the institutions themselves, there doesn’t seem to be any improvement.”
Since the enactment of the National Security Law in the Hong Kong SAR, the government has been using all sorts of maneuvers to wipe out voices which are not toeing the government line such as satirizing. The administration keeps arresting journalists, senior staff, and even founders of media outlet. The charges against them clearly indicate that journalism has lost the right to scrutinize the government which may even become a criminal offense under the national law in the Hong Kong SAR.
The Hong Kong Media Overseas called for an immediate end to the suppression of media workers.
Finally, the Hong Kong Media Overseas expresses its gratitude to Zunzi for his splendid work for the past 40 years of using political cartoons as a means of exposing social issues, and for witnessing the changes of the times together with the people of Hong Kong.
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