Hong Kong’s most prominent political cartoonist has had his comic strip suspended after a satirical post was criticised by government bodies, the artist and a source with direct knowledge of the matter said Wednesday.

Cartoonist Wong Kei-kwan, who uses the nom de plume “Zunzi”, has been publishing his satirical takes on current affairs and public policies in the city since 1983 in Ming Pao, a mainstream Chinese language newspaper in Hong Kong.

Zunzi talent attraction
A screenshot of a political cartoon by Wong Kei-kwan, better known as Zunzi, published by Ming Pao on October 21, 2023. Photo: Screenshot.

His three-panel strip published Tuesday showed a man telling a woman that the city’s community representatives will be chosen “as long as the superior finds them suitable” — even if they have failed all exams and health tests.

The cartoon was done a week after Hong Kong announced it would drastically reduce the number of directly elected seats in its local district councils, effectively gutting the city’s last remaining democratic institutions.

Wong’s strip was swiftly condemned by Hong Kong’s secretary for home and youth affairs Alice Mak, who called it “distortive” and “unethical”.

By Wednesday, Wong told AFP that Ming Pao would no longer publish his cartoons.

“Cartoon is just a medium,” Wong said. “One should just do what he ought to do and what we can do.”

Secretary for Home and Youth Affairs Alice Mak meeting the press on April 24, 2023 for the Happy Hong Kong campaign
Secretary for Home and Youth Affairs Alice Mak meeting the press on April 24, 2023 for the Happy Hong Kong campaign. Photo: Kyle Lam/HKFP.

A source with direct knowledge confirmed to AFP that Wong’s cartoons would be suspended on Sunday.

It was not immediately clear if the suspension would be indefinite.

The famed cartoonist is no stranger to criticism from the government. His previous works have drawn the ire of at least five government departments, including the police and the powerful Security Bureau.

His artworks were also once banned in Macau and Singapore more than two decades ago.

In recent years, political satire in Hong Kong has become vulnerable to legal risks as the city’s authorities reactivated the colonial-era offence of sedition, alongside a national security law imposed by Beijing in 2020 after massive democracy protests.

Ming Pao
Ming Pao newspaper front page on May 9, 2022. Photo: Tom Grundy/HKFP.

Ming Pao was Wong’s last holdout in Hong Kong’s mass media after Apple Daily, the Chinese tabloid founded by jailed pro-democracy media tycoon Jimmy Lai, was forced to shut down in 2021.

Satirical news show Headliner ended its more than three-decade-run on public broadcaster RTHK in 2020 — following rebukes from regulators over an episode lampooning the police.

In an interview back then, Wong had told AFP “jokes can be very dangerous”.

“The powerful try to… make the masses believe there is no one else but them to follow,” he said.

“Jokes can quickly pierce through all this and nail the lies. They can drag the powerful down from their thrones.”

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