Top court denies govt bid to restore ban on controversial Belt and Road comic book by ‘Superman Hew’

Malay Mail
Malay Mail

KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 8 — The federal government today failed to get leave from the Federal Court to reinstate a ban on a comic book by former DAP member Hew Kuan Yau about China’s Belt and Road Initiative.

Lawyer Vince Tan Hoo Seh, who represented Hew, said the decision was handed down by a three-judge panel comprising Datuk Nallini Pathmanathan, Datuk Zabariah Yusof and Datuk Rhodzariah Bujang through video-conferencing this morning.

The lawyer said the apex court judges did not find any novel issues or that the questions posed by the government were of public importance to justify its bid to restore the ban.

The government had asked the Federal Court to answer four questions. One of them was if the home minister’s finding that disharmony and racial tensions caused by the publication of the book could be used as a yardstick to measure whether or not it was detrimental to public order.

Tan said his client — popularly known as “Superman Hew” due to his penchant for wearing T-shirts of the comic superhero — would be applying for a court order to claim damages from the government for disposing of his books as well as the loss to his reputation and business opportunities.

He said the court has scheduled management of the case for December 12.

Hew had co-authored a book titled Belt and Road Initiative for Win-Winism published in 2019 by the Asia Comic Cultural Museum and available in three languages — Malay, English and Mandarin.

The Home Ministry banned the book that same year, under Section 7 (1) of the Printing Presses and Publications Act on grounds that its contents could be detrimental to public order and disturb the thoughts of the people.

Hew challenged the ban by way of a judicial review at the High Court.

In April last year, the High Court ruled that the Home Ministry had the right to ban the book and keep all impounded copies.

But Hew again challenged the High Court decision and sought a review at the Court of Appeal in November 2019.

In July this year, the appellate court overturned the High Court decision and ordered the Home Ministry to return all copies of Hew’s book that it had seized previously.