Chinese Cartoonist Fears Return Home Amid Online 'Traitor' Campaign

2014-08-21
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People fly Chinese and Hong Kong flags as they take part in a pro-government rally in Hong Kong, Aug. 17, 2014.
AFP

Political cartoonist Wang Liming, known by his online nickname "Biantai Lajiao" (in English, Perverted Chili Pepper), said he is considering remaining in Japan after his China-based social media accounts were closed following a smear campaign in state media.

"I have lost income since my microblog account was shut down," Wang told RFA from Japan, where he is on a business trip. "I think it might be pretty risky to go back home, although my ticket was booked for [Thursday]."

"If I go back, they might use my cartoons as an excuse to detain me," he said. "I'm looking around for opportunities that might enable me to stay here."

Wang dismissed the online campaign against him, which came after he posted a cartoon of mainlanders bussed to Hong Kong to oppose a pro-democracy movement, as "ridiculous."

"It's laughable that they are turning all of the powerful machinery of state propaganda onto a lone cartoonist like me," Wang said. "All I did was put some of my thoughts and feelings onto social media."

Wang's cartoon depicted red-skinned mainland Chinese, replete with shopping bags, patriotic banners and portraits of Chairman Mao, showing Hong Kong people how to kowtow to the government.

Soon after it appeared, Wang was slammed as a "traitor" by an unsigned post on discussion boards run by major state-run media outlets, including the People's Daily, titled "Seeing the pro-Japan stance of Chinese traitor 'Biantai Lajiao' for what it is."

Overreaction

Wang, who has a following of some 550,000 on Tencent's Twitter-like Weibo service and 340,000 on Sina Weibo, said the authorities appeared to him to be overreacting.

"I think they're going to too much trouble," he said. "I have no idea why they would want to call me a traitor to the Chinese people. I think I'm a long, long way from being that."

"If they want to criticize my cartoons, then they should come out and say so, but if they did, they'd get laughed at in turn."

"That's why they have to resort to so-called patriotism ... to smear me. That post is written like something out of the Cultural Revolution [1966-1976]," Wang said.

Pro-Beijing rally

Organizers of Sunday's pro-Beijing demonstration claimed nearly 200,000 people participated in the event aimed at opposing the Occupy Central campaign, which has vowed to take over Hong Kong's downtown financial and shopping district if voters are denied public nominations in the 2017 race for the next chief executive.

But democracy activists in the former British colony on Monday accused police in of inflating the number of participants at the demonstration.

The pro-Beijing rally was intended to counter the city's July 1 pro-democracy rally, which organizers said attracted some 500,000 people, against a police head count of just 92,000.

Some 1,170 pro-Beijing groups and politicians signed up for Sunday's rally, in which marchers wore color-coded T-shirts denoting allegiance to various groups linked to different provinces and hometowns in China.

They carried placards which read: "Love Hong Kong, don't paralyze Hong Kong," "For the next generation," and "In support of one person, one vote in 2017."

Reported by Yang Fan for RFA's Mandarin Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.