Cartoonist says Hong Kong newspaper scrapped comic strip running since 1983

A Hong Kong cartoonist has said that a newspaper scrapped a decades-long satire following complaints from authorities in the latest crackdown on media freedom in the city.

According to cartoonist Wong Kei-kwan, 67, who goes by the pen name Zunzi, the Ming Pao newspaper said in a notice it would scrap the comic strip drawn by him.

Mr Wong, who is one of the city’s most prominent political cartoonists, said that he had been informed by the newspaper of several complaints relating to his work.

Some of the complaints came this week.

“My sense is that the pressure is building up and it won’t stop without change,“ he was quoted as telling Reuters.

The comic strip has been running in the paper since 1983.

It is known for its satire on Hong Kong and Chinese politics and society.

The newspaper has not released a statement on its decision to discontinue the comic strip.

According to Mr Wong, the space for media freedom is only shrinking in Hong Kong.

The cartoon strip was one of the few remaining spaces for criticism following Beijing’s decision in 2020 to impose the stringent national security law which followed months of pro-democracy protests in 2019.

“The situation continues to develop in a bad direction,” Mr Wong was quoted as saying.

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

“I will continue to speak out when I have the opportunity.”

The discontinuation of the cartoon strip has also been criticised by the Hong Kong Journalists Association.

In a statement the group said: “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.”

Last year a report titled “In the Firing Line: The Crackdown on Media Freedom in Hong Kong” published by the UK-based advocacy group Hong Kong Watch (HKW) said that the city’s free press is in “dire” straits and has been almost completely dismantled by crackdowns from China through the use of “lawfare” to curb journalistic freedom.

The latest World Press Freedom ranking released by media watchdog Reporters without Borders put Hong Kong at 140 out of 180 countries.

The same index had ranked Hong Kong at 73 in 2019.

(Additional reporting by agencies)