Malaysia Bans ‘Belt and Road’ Comic Book for Promoting Chinese Regime’s Ideologies

October 24, 2019 13:29, Last Updated: October 24, 2019 16:19
By Frank Fang ,

Malaysia has banned a 164-page comic book titled “Belt and Road Initiative for Win-Winism,” in the latest pushback against Chinese communist propaganda by Asian governments in the past two weeks.

The comic was created by Hew Kuan Yau, an ethnic Chinese Malaysian and a former member of the local Democratic Action Party (DAP).

The comic book contains political views of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), and describes those who sympathize with the mistreatment that Uyghur Muslims face in China as “extremists,” according to Malaysian media. Uyghurs who live in China’s Xinjiang region currently face heavy suppression, including detention, torture, and political indoctrination in concentration camps.

Beijing rolled out its One Belt, One Road (OBOR, also known as Belt and Road) initiative in 2013, with the goal of establishing geopolitical clout by financing infrastructure projects throughout Southeast Asia, Africa, Europe, and Latin America.

Malaysia has signed several projects with China under OBOR, including the $16 billion East Coast Rail Link (ECRL) connecting a port on the Strait of Malacca with a town facing the South China Sea, and the $2.5 billion Trans Sabah Gas Pipeline (TSGP), which runs 662 kilometers (411 miles) in the eastern Sabah state.

Since Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad took office last year, he has canceled or renegotiated the terms of some OBOR projects, saying the projects would put the country in heavy debt.

“It is not for us to promote Chinese ideas and ideologies,” said Mahathir about the book on Oct. 21 during a local forum, according to local media. At the time, Malaysia’s Home Ministry had just announced an investigation into the book’s distribution in schools.

The ministry announced the ban on Oct. 23, saying that “the contents of the book can be detrimental to public order and safety,” according to a report by Malaysia news portal Free Malaysia Today. The ban applies to the comic book’s Chinese, English, and Bahasa Malaysia versions.

The book contains content promoting the ideologies of communism and socialism, along with false facts about Malaysia’s history that might encourage support and sympathy toward the communist struggle, according to the Home Ministry.

“It can also cause doubts among readers, in particular the younger generation … and questions the efforts and struggles of previous national leaders toward independence and in developing the nation,” the Home Ministry said in its statement. “The contents of the publication are seen as ignoring the sensitivities of Malaysian citizens who are multiracial and multi-religious.”

The Home Ministry stated that the ban was made in accordance to the Printing Presses and Publication Act 1984. Any person found to be violating the ban, including by printing, importing, publishing, selling, and circulating any prohibited publication, could be convicted and face a maximum sentence of three years’ imprisonment, or a maximum fine of 20,000 ringgit (about $4,780).

Recently, the presence of Chinese propaganda in the Hollywood animated film “Abominable” also made headlines. A scene in the movie, jointly produced by the Shanghai-based Pearl Studio and the U.S.’s Dreamworks Animation, depicts the main character standing in front of a map that shows the Chinese regime’s “nine-dash line” in the South China Sea.

Islands, reefs, and rocks in the South China Sea are claimed by a number of countries in the region, including Brunei, China, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan, and Vietnam.

Beijing has used the “nine-dash line” to proclaim sovereignty over 90 percent of the South China Sea, even after a United Nations legal judgment in 2016 rejected Beijing’s claims.

The film won’t be released in Malaysia, after its local distributor United International Pictures refused to cut the “nine-dash map” scene as demanded by Malaysia’s Film Censorship Board, according to Reuters.

Vietnam also pulled the film from its theaters days after it opened there on Oct. 4.

The Philippines also banned the film over the same issue, according to an Oct. 22 article by local newspaper Business World.

Meanwhile, Taiwan’s Ministry of Culture has said the movie scene in question disrespects the island’s sovereignty, according to local newspaper Taipei Times. The island hasn’t banned the film or required that the scene be cut.

Follow Frank on Twitter: @HwaiDer

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