Malaysia's home ministry bans controversial pro-China comic

Bukit Aman Criminal Investigation director Datuk Huzir Mohamed (centre) holds up a copy of the controversial comic book while speaking during a media conference in Kuala Lumpur on Oct 23, 2019. PHOTO: BERNAMA

KUALA LUMPUR - Malaysia's Home Ministry on Wednesday (Oct 23) banned a comic with pro-China overtones which was reported to have been distributed to some school libraries, and the controversial issue is adding to tensions in the ruling Pakatan Harapan (PH) coalition.

Some members of the Democratic Action Party (DAP), a member of the governing coalition, have come out in support of the former party member who penned and distributed the comic, Belt & Road Initiative For Win-Winism.

The comic controversy landed amid ongoing tensions between the DAP and the government of Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, following the arrest by police of two DAP lawmakers and 10 other men for alleged support of a defunct Sri Lanka terrorist group Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

The two DAP lawmakers - Seremban Jaya assemblyman Gunasekaran Palanisamy and Melaka state government minister Saminathan Ganesan - were held under anti-terror laws.

Since coming to power in the May 2018 election as part of the PH, the DAP has been accused of masterminding an agenda to undermine the special privileges of the Malay Muslim majority.

Mr Hew Kuan Yau, the writer and distributor of the comic, said he intended to "share" Malaysia's diplomatic history with China. But it caused a public outcry, as the content described Malays who support ethnic Uighurs in China as radicals. Reports say more than one million Uighurs have been forced into re-education camps by the Chinese government.

The comic was reportedly distributed to libraries in some schools without the knowledge of the authorities, triggering criticism that it was bringing politics into the classroom.

In a statement, the Home Ministry said the publication was found to have content that could "endanger public order and security" and also "distort the mind of the public".

"The content of this publication promotes the ideology of communism and socialism, the spread of false and confusing facts on communists, as well as invokes support and sympathy towards the communism cause."

The statement added that the publication could also raise doubts among readers towards the history of Malaysia, "which proceeds to question the efforts of former leaders who fought for the country's independence".

"The content of this publication is deemed to be insensitive towards Malaysians of multiracial and multi-religious background, and it is a worry that it could disrupt the harmony and unity of the people in this country," the statement said.

The comic was produced by Mr Hew, curator of the Asian Comic Cultural Museum, in collaboration with local artist Chong Po Ling.

A group of 43 grassroots DAP members have come out in support of Mr Hew.

Responding to the controversy around the comic, Tun Dr Mahathir said on Monday that the government would not allow for the ideas and ideologies of China be taught to "young minds", although the two countries shared good trade ties.

"I believe China will be a great influence in the future but for the moment, it is not for us to promote China's ideas and Chinese ideologies but to find out how we can benefit from them," he told reporters. "As much as we did not like the Western influence in our set of beliefs and schools, we do not want any other country to have undue influence on our young people."

Before the Home Ministry ban, the DAP and its Youth wing sought to distance themselves from the controversy.

"The comic book's contents are the personal views of the author working under a Asia Comic Culture Museum initiative. Whether the views are right or wrong depends on the reader's interpretation. However, the contents do not reflect the stand of the DAP or its Socialist Youth," DAP Socialist Youth chief Howard Lee said in a statement on Monday.

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