Penang DAP chief defends ‘Superman’ Hew’s banned pro-China comic books
GEORGE TOWN, Oct 25 — The Home Ministry was hasty in banning former DAP member Hew Kuan Yau’s Belt and Road Initiative for Win-Winism comic as communist propaganda, Penang Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow said today.
“The authorities need to look at the real intentions behind the comic and look at it in detail before banning it,” the Penang DAP chief said in a press conference today.
He said the authorities initially wanted to invite historians to scrutinise the comic book but banned it as communist propaganda before this could be done.
Chow suggested there was ulterior motives in the swift ban.
“They should have asked experts to review the comic and get their views before banning it,” he said.
Chow said authorities should consider that Hew wanted to introduce China as an alternative to the US as a global superpower.
He noted that aside from curating for the Asia Comic Cultural Museum, Hew had also been the chief executive officer of the Malaysia China Business Council.
Chow claimed China was misunderstood politically and Hew meant only to highlight the country’s economic success.
He further claimed that China has thousands of self-made billionaires who made their fortunes through socialism despite being a superficially communist state.
“It was his intention to give an alternative introduction to China regarding its economic development,” he said.
The Home Ministry officially banned the comic as it was deemed to be inappropriate as it promotes “communism and socialism” as well as spreading confusing facts” on its struggle here in the country.
When asked about the state government’s financial support for the Asia Comic Cultural Museum, Chow said the museum itself was not banned.
He also said the museum did not belong to the state government, which only supported it by paying for its rental.
“The museum was set up in 2016 and chose to set up in ICT Mall at Level Two of Komtar during a time when the state government was taking steps to rejuvenate Komtar,” he said.
He said at the time, the state government was bringing in businesses to Komtar including The Top, ICT Mall and Tech Dome, and the state decided to support the museum when it chose to move there.
“It is a tourism product that is unique in Malaysia and even Asia, it is a comic museum that promotes creativity and animation where various events were held by famous comic artists there,” he said.
He said this was the reason why the state decided to collaborate with the museum by paying for their rental but stated that the state did not fund the exhibits or infrastructure in the museum.
“We only support in terms of rental and the rental goes to Penang Development Corporation, this is the only link between the state and the museum,” he said.
He said the state has an agreement with the museum to support it until December 2020.
The issue of the state’s support for the museum was discussed at the state exco meeting this morning, he added.
But is it really that dangerous?
Titled Belt & Road Initiative for Win-Winism, the comic book was a collaboration between a curator from the Asian Comic Cultural Museum Hew Kuan Yau and Malaysian comic artist, Tomato.
Unless you’ve been living under a coconut shell, you would’ve probably heard of China’s Belt and Road Initiative.
It’s a strategy by the economic powerhouse to take over the world. Business wise that is, through investments and development in a whopping 152 countries across Asia, Europe, Africa, the Middle East, and the Americas.
Malaysia has had some investments flowing in from the country through the development of the East Coast Rail Link (ECRL).
A super problem.
The curator of the museum, Hew, also known as Superman Hew, is a member of the Democratic Action Party (DAP) which forms part of the current Malaysian government.
Hew has been known for his vocal pro-China views. Although he no longer holds leadership positions in the party, he is still very much active as a member.
For Malay-Muslim hardliners, DAP is seen as a pro-Chinese party who is out to get them. The comic issue blew up because former Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak took to social media to quiz if the comic was a form of propaganda.
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Najib also uploaded several images among which featured current Malaysian prime minister Mahathir Mohamad showcasing the comic to Chinese president, Xi Jinping.
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The comic was not sold in news stands or bookstores unlike others. Instead, it was apparently distributed in several schools.
What’s more, these books were sent to school libraries for free. This prompted Malaysian Education Minister Dr Maszlee Malik to ban the comic books in schools.
Critics of the ruling government claimed that the comic was used as a propaganda tool to brainwash the younger generation. The opposition’s call to debate the comic was also recently dismissed.
This led the Malaysian Home Ministry to announce a total ban of the comic on the grounds that it could “endanger public order and security” and “distort the mind of the public”.
But should it have been banned?
The cover of the comic depicts Malaysian prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad and Chinese premier Xi Jinping. IMAGE: The Edge Markets
Not really as Malaysians have the freedom to read the comic book, according to renowned local cartoonist Zunar.
“Until today, I haven’t read the whole content of the comic. Personally, I may or may not agree with the content, but I am strongly against the banning of the comic,” he said in a statement to Free Malaysia Today.
Zunar, who has had his own cartoons banned during Najib’s rule, said he agree that distributing the comic in schools was uncalled for. But Malaysians are capable of making their own decisions.
“The principle is simple: ‘Cartoons and comics are a matter of interpretation. If you do not agree with the content, no problem. But do not use your interpretation as a law to ban it. Don’t like? Don’t read!”
Hew and others are currently being investigated by the police in their involvement of producing the comic book and distributing some 2,500 copies in schools.
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