Day 6

As violence escalates, Hong Kong political cartoonist Zunzi sketches a crisis in real time

Political cartoonist Wong Kee-kwan has been covering Hong Kong protests since they erupted in March. This month, he brought his cartoons to Canada.

Wong Kee-kwan, also known as Zunzi, has been covering Hong Kong politics since the 1980s

This is one of Zunzi's cartoons, showing a young protester who was shot in the eye by police. The artist considers it a particularly important moment, because 'before that, we thought that the police [wouldn't] really shoot at the people.' (Submitted by Wong Kee-kwan)

Hong Kong-based political cartoonist Wong Kee-kwan, better known as Zunzi, believes that to be an effective commentator, he has to be calm — yet the ongoing unrest surrounding his home city makes it challenging.

"Sometimes I really feel crunches on my stomach. Sometimes I couldn't sleep," he told Day 6 guest host Saroja Coelho.

Zunzi has covered China and Hong Kong's many tense moments over the decades, from the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre to the 1997 handover of Hong Kong from Britain and 2014 umbrella revolution.

This month, he's in Canada, with an exhibition of his work on display at York University in Toronto.

But as clashes between pro-democracy protesters and police in Hong Kong approach the six-month mark, with tensions spilling into a university this week, Zunzi says it's becoming increasingly difficult to illustrate the unrest.

"It's quite difficult for me to find a new idea to talk about. But since all the things happening in the streets [began], it's difficult for me to not draw anything to express my anger," he said.

"One of my function[s] is to express for them the situation, the agony, the hatred or the sadness through my cartoon," he added.

Zunzi says he worries artists' freedom of expression will be stifled by government legislation. (Submitted by Wong Kee-kwan)

Sharing protesters' perspective

While his cartoons have covered the anti-extradition bill protests from the start, he considers one illustration particularly important. 

In August, a woman was shot in the eye by police with a beanbag, according to protestors.

Following the incident, protesters began wearing eye patches in honour of the woman.

"Before that, we thought that the police [wouldn't] really shoot at the people; wouldn't use this kind of weapon to directly shoot the people and become injured," Zunzi told Day 6.

"That sparked up a lot of anger among the people in Hong Kong."

Still, the artist is hesitant to say he's proud of any work from the past half year. He argues he's "just" trying to illustrate the reality of the protests in Hong Kong, rather than the government's interpretation.

Looking ahead

Asked what he thinks the future of the protests looks like, Zunzi believes that they may be forced "underground" in the short term.

He also worries that government legislation could see young artists' freedom of expression stifled. But with many artists publishing their work online and in public spaces, he remains optimistic.

"The Hong Kong government tried to impose new laws and new bills. They are trying to do every means to stop all these noises," he said. "But whatever they try to do, I don't think it will be easy, because Hong Kong has had the freedom of expression for so many years."

He already has a plan for his first cartoon when he returns home: illustrating recent clashes between police and students on campus.

"Perhaps the police get inside the classroom and then [start] to teach the youngsters about democracy," he said. "And definitely the youngsters are throwing some bricks or whatever."


To hear the full interview with Zuzni, download our podcast or click Listen above. 

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