Zunzi is a well-known Hong Kong political cartoonist. His works have for decades marked a strong criticism against the authoritarianism of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). He has recently received a formal warning from the police force, which accused him of “trying to damage the image” of the institution.

Although always with restraint, Wong Kee-kwan, who works under the pseudonym Zunzi, has conveyed his discontent with the regime for several generations and has been accepted by many of the public. It enabled him to publish his works in well-known local media.

After the Chinese regime’s imposition of the controversial National Security Law, Hong Kong has significantly tightened censorship and persecution of academics, journalists, politicians, and artists who oppose the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and its repressive apparatus. 

Zunzi’s cartoons seem to have been singled out by the regime. Could this result in a new chapter of censorship and persecution?

What was it that angered the Hong Kong police?

The cartoonist published in the Ming Pao media on Tuesday, October 11, an illustration showing riot police arriving at a school, where one of them asks a woman wearing glasses:

“What bad things have the students done today, Principal Chan?” 

The woman answers him by listing the alleged “infractions” committed by the students: 

“Using obscene language, stealing an eraser, carrying a laser pen, and talking back to the teacher.”

In any “normal” country, this cartoon represents a simple act of free speech in which some disagreement with the police system may be evident. 

But under the orbit of the CCP, this can mean an “act of rebellion” against the system, which is usually paid for with fierce persecution. Many cases end with people in prison, tortured, and even killed or disappearing. 

According to local media reports, Deputy Police Commissioner Joe Chan wrote in a letter that he feared that the content of the cartoon could lead to misunderstandings among readers about the attitude of the police in school matters. The note was addressed to Lau Chung Yeung, the newspaper’s executive editor-in-chief.

Chan also reportedly referred to the fact that readers might draw parallels between the cartoon and a recent incident at a Tsuen Wan school, in which 14 students were suspended from class for three days after being accused of skipping a flag-raising ceremony.

The letter claims that the depictions in the illustration “are false,” which could lead to misinterpretation of police work and damage their reputation.

After receiving the letter, Zunzi clarified that the cartoon was not directed at the police but believed that the school should teach students as much as possible and should not use repressive discharge methods to deal with it.

Several political cartoonists have left Hong Kong in recent months, citing concerns about the city’s artistic freedom. Hong Kong’s, Vawongsir and Ah To, whose work was also published in Ming Pao, announced their departure earlier this year.

These names are just a sample of the many artists who have suffered from fierce persecution over the past few months. In many cases, the harassment against expressions of freedom began with a simple letter, as in the recent case of Zunzi, but continued with arbitrary arrests, police “visits,” and raids.

National Security Law and censorship

Under the slogan of “one country, two systems,” Hong Kong has maintained a certain degree of autonomy from the communist regime since 1997. But in the last decade, the CCP has done everything possible to penetrate the island and gradually limit the democratic freedoms that the Hong Kong people enjoyed.

Thus began the significant protests demanding the end of controversial laws that the CCP tried to impose through the Hong Kong rulers. The proposed “new Laws” intended to “legalize” the regime’s interference in different issues affecting the freedoms of the citizens.

The clashes between the police and the activists became increasingly violent, leaving many people dead and wounded.

The legislature of the Chinese regime passed the so-called “national security law” for Hong Kong in June 2020. The legislation allows the central government in Beijing to establish a national security bureau in Hong Kong, whose job is to confront “subversion of state power, terrorism, separatism and conspiracies with foreign forces.”

The measure succeeded in making legal the CCP’s interference in the internal affairs of the island city to control any political dissent in the territory under its orbit. It marked the absolute end of Hong Kong’s democratic freedoms.

As expected, the Chinese regime used the National Security Law as a legal tool to persecute and eliminate the opposition media and independent journalists who criticized the repressive policies of the CCP and its accomplices inside Hong Kong. 

The communist regime acted unabashedly to eliminate even the leading opposition media.

Such is the case of the anti-communist media Apple Daily, whose founder Jimmy Lai, a pro-democracy leader, was imprisoned along with other Human Rights activists and managers of the newspaper in the year 2021.

The board of directors of Apple Daily, following the arrests of several of its leaders, announced that it would stop publishing both its print edition and the digital version of the anti-communist newspaper, according to an official company statement.

Zunzi worked at Apple Daily, so the recent “wake-up call” he received about his work must bring back memories of those dark days when authoritarianism won over freedom of expression and the regime silenced the voices of dissident media and journalists. 

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