Hong Kong’s security chief has criticised Ming Pao over a “misleading” comic strip about the government’s plan to spend HK$5.2 billion on a new communications system. However, legislative documents appear to contradict Secretary for Security Chris Tang’s complaint.

Tang said on Sunday that Zunzi, the cartoonist in question, had “targeted the government more than once and made misleading accusations over the past six months.”

Chris Tang
Secretary for Security Chris Tang. File photo: GovHK.

The comic strip in question, published on Saturday, depicted two people discussing the budget for security, with a man saying to a woman that “reserving HK$20 billion is not a lot for upgrading the equipment for disciplined forces.”

A comic strip by Zunzi published on Ming Pao on April 1, 2023
A comic strip by Zunzi published on Ming Pao on April 1, 2023. Photo: Ming Pao, via screenshot.

The woman replied saying “was it not HK$5 billion?,” as the man said: “well, with better equipment, there will be more arrests – and we need to build two more prisons, and hire more prison guards.”

“With more cases handled by the courts, more judges have to be hired, and we have to import foreign workers, provide accommodation, and education subsidies for their children…,” the comic strip read.

Tang said on Sunday that Zunzi misled citizens into thinking that enhanced technology would be used to “monitor and target” citizens: “I have said clearly, the technology is for helping us to handle emergencies,” Tang said.

HK$5.2 billion project

According to documents submitted to the Legislative Council the police force proposed building a Next Generation Communication System (NGCS) that would cost around HK$5.2 billion. The document made reference to national security and geopolitics.

“The [police force] proposes to build the NGCS to improve the operational efficiency of policing and emergency services, address national security needs, and reduce the potential risks associated with geopolitical tensions by establishing a reliable, highly stable, sustainable, and more secure communications network,” the document read.

When approached by HKFP about Tang’s comments, the Security Bureau said they had nothing to add. Tang will attend a LegCo Panel on Security meeting on Tuesday to discuss the government’s proposal.

The security chief added on Sunday that the government was “very happy” to accept criticism, and that “criticising was not a problem.”

“However, if you’re not criticising, not basing things on facts, but are using some misleading accusations to provoke citizens’ discontent towards the government, I think I have the duty to tell the truth, and condemn these misleading accusations publicly in order to give citizens the right to know,” Tang said.

Zunzi had previously been criticised by Chief Executive John Lee over a comic strip about the government’s talent attraction scheme, as well as by Chief Secretary for Administration Eric Chan over an entry about Beijing’s interpretation of the national security law.

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Candice is a reporter at Hong Kong Free Press. She previously worked as a researcher at a local think tank. She has a BSocSc in Politics and International Relations from the University of Manchester and a MSc in International Political Economy from London School of Economics.