A Hong Kong cartoonist has apologised to police for a satirical comic strip which linked the Junior Police Call (JPC) organisation to a controversy over the city’s leading press group.
His apology followed a letter of complaint from the police, who are embroiled in a separate dispute with the Hong Kong Journalists Association over its allegedly unprofessional activities.
Apple Daily, the city’s sole opposition print daily, was shut down this summer and the government is mulling plans to impose a law to combat what it calls “fake news.”
In a letter to Justin Wong Ciu-tat, an assistant professor of visual arts at the Hong Kong Baptist University, the force accused him of “slandering” the JPC and making “baseless accusations.” It demanded he provide a clarification.
“The police express strong dissatisfaction and concerns over this cartoon’s unreasonable allegations,” it said in a statement.
“As a member of staff in university and an educator, Mr. Wong should carry the spirit of seeking truth and nurturing talents,” it said. “In regards to Mr. Wong’s use of a newspaper platform to make baseless accusations, smear and slander members of the Junior Police Call for no reason, the police express deep regret.”
The security chief himself has been accused by the HKJA of airing falsities about the association.
Fake news comic
Wong’s comic strip published last Friday in Ming Pao newspaper featured two students discussing their extra-curricular plans for the new academic year. One said he wanted to be a campus reporter.
“Do you think that you can do whatever you want when you pretend to be a journalist?” the other asked. “Where did you hear this piece of fake news?” the other asked. “I don’t know. From a friend in the Junior Police Call,” was the response.
The cartoonist later apologised for the cartoon, saying that he respected the JPC, according to RTHK.
Wong had been drawing political cartoons for the paper in a column called Gei Gei Gaak Gaak, in reference to “chitter chatter”, since 2007. He told the paper it was the first time he had received such a letter of complaint from the police.
Established in 1974, the Junior Police Call is a police programme aimed at fostering “law-abidingness” in children from the ages of six onwards through training camps and community activities.
The cartoon appeared to be no longer available on Ming Pao’s website after the police letter of complaint. HKFP has reached out to the paper for comment.
The cartoonist echoed phrases used by the city’s security chief and former police chief Chris Tang last week to accuse the city’s press union of “roping in students” without any qualifications into joining the group.
The Hong Kong Journalists Association has pushed back against Tang’s claims, saying they were “factually incorrect.”
The city’s current police commissioner Raymond Siu echoed the security chief’s accusations on Saturday, questioning whether the HKJA was professional and unbiased.
“The HKJA said that ‘everyone can be a journalist.’ Is this a professional group? I think everybody knows in their hearts,” he said.