Michael Leunig, cartoonist, has been widely criticised after posting a cartoon comparing COVID-19 vaccine mandates to the Tiananmen Square massacre.
Leunig has come under fire previously for anti-vaccine statements. In 2015, he compared the then-Victorian government’s No Jab, No Play policy – which legislated that children need to be fully vaccinated before entering childcare or kindergarten – to fascism.
His latest cartoon, posted on Instagram with the caption “mandate”, has drawn strong criticism.
The reference for Leunig’s picture is the infamous ‘Tiananmen Square tank man’, an unidentified man who faced down tanks leaving Tiananmen Square in 1989, after the Tiananmen Square Massacre.
The Massacre was a response to student led protests in favour of free speech and democracy, which were violently suppressed by the Chinese government, with members of the military shooting into the crowd.
An estimated hundreds of thousands of protesters were killed and the event has since been highly censored by the Chinese government.
Many of Leunig’s critics have pointed out the sheer insensitivity of comparing lifesaving vaccines to a brutal act of violence.
In one powerful Twitter thread, writer Elizabeth Flux wrote, “what happened at Tiananmen Square in 1989 was a massacre. Its effects are still being felt today.”
“Just this month, activists in Hong Kong were arrested for their role in organising a vigil. It is dangerous for people to commemorate and atrocity and yet they do it because it matters.”
“So for Leunig to do this, for some twisted anti vaccination message is frankly disgusting. It is privileged. It is ignorant. It makes me sick.”
Many others on the platform were in agreement.
Leunig has been problematic for a long time. As someone who watched Tiananmen live from HK before the lines were cut and am still scarred, I am so sorry that such selfless and heroic bravery is being compared to antivaxxing. I'm so very deeply sorry.
— Isy Oderberg (@yodaberg) September 27, 2021
Cartoonists play a unique and important role. Their insights aren’t always literal, but nor are they always helpful. Its been coming for a while but its time for me and Leunig to part ways…i think he has moved from ironic and insightful to bitter and boring #auspol pic.twitter.com/4r7ormSu1l
— Richard Denniss (@RDNS_TAI) September 27, 2021
This Leunig cartoon is grotesquely offensive. To compare the plight of anti-vaxxers to that of a man whose fate remains unknown, 30 years on, is just appalling. pic.twitter.com/Ncy71tPjJT
— Jerome Doraisamy (@JeromeDoraisamy) September 26, 2021
On Instagram, Leunig has recieved support from known anti-vaxxer and former Home and Away actress Isabel Lucas, who commented a fire emoji.
When podcaster Anna Richard shared a post about Van Dijk’s death, falsley claiming it was the result of a COVID-19 vaccine, Lucas commented “thank you”.
However, like on Twitter, other commentators criticised the post. Journalist Jan Fran commented, “what in the hecking heck is this??” while other comments included: “disgusting comparison, completely lacking perspective”, “nope, this isn’t it” and “disappointing”.
The post has received just under 5000 likes.
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