In an official statement released on May 10, Hong Kong Home and Youth Affairs Bureau head Alice Mak condemned a comic published by long-time Ming Pao cartoonist Wong Kei-kwan, or Zunzi, the previous day. The comic satirised proposed reforms to the city’s local administration, which would dramatically reduce the number of democratically elected seats in Hong Kong’s District Council, replacing these seats with three committees comprised of government-appointed officials.
On May 11, Wong reported that Ming Pao would no longer be publishing his cartoons from May 14 following the backlash, in what was allegedly a ‘mutual decision’. On May 12, Ming Pao reported that all records for Zunzi or Wong Kei-kwan normally displayed through Hong Kong’s online public library records were absent, while physical locations for books, recordings and videos he had authored and contributed to were now empty.
Zunzi, a prominent figure in Hong Kong’s media scene, had been publishing satirical cartoons in Ming Pao since 1983. Over the past several months, Zunzi and Ming Pao have received several complaints from government officials, who publicly criticised the cartoonist’s work at least six times since October 2022. Press freedom and journalist groups have condemned the incident as representative of attacks against freedom of expression seen in Hong Kong since the introduction of the National Security Law in 2020.
In a separate incident, independent online publication Transit Jam officially ceased operations on May 9 following the publication of an April 21 article by state-backed publication Wen Wei Po accusing founder James Ockenden of attempting to ‘stir up trouble’ through his coverage and protests. The outlet questioned Ockenden’s hiring of reporters to cover District Council meetings and claimed a protest he had held calling for a pedestrianisation scheme on Hong Kong Island was a deliberate attempt to create ‘smears’ against Hong Kong’s record of protecting freedom of expression. Ockenden had run the transport-based publication for three years, which is the latest publication to close since the introduction of the National Security Law in 2020.
The IFJ said: “These attacks are indicative of the increasingly hostile environment faced by Hong Kong journalists and media workers. As arbitrary boundaries over acceptable coverage under the National Security Law remain vague, criticism and censorship from state media and government officials are deeply concerning. The IFJ condemns these threats to independent and critical Hong Kong media and urges the authorities to respect the fundamental freedoms of expression and the press as stated in Hong Kong’s Basic Law.”