NOTE: The cartoons on this page caused a diplomatic row between The Philippines and Malaysia!
They are based on a true incident, in which a sign was posted in the lifts of Tregunter Towers, a so-called "luxury" residential building in Hong Kong's Central District, stating that dogs and servants must use the freight elevator. Although a large number of the building's residents were English-speaking foreigners, the signs were only in Chinese and Tagalog, presumably because they were directed at Filipinas, and to be read by Chinese employers, who would more likely look upon such restrictions favorably than more liberal-minded westerners.
At the time, "Lily Wong" appeared in syndication in Malaysia's New Straits Times daily newspaper. A Philippine diplomat in Kuala Lumpur noticed the second cartoon in the paper and faxed it to officials in Manila. The sign in the second panel was cited ("No dogs, rats, roaches or Filipinas in the lift"), and the cartoon branded as racist and hostile toward Filipinas.
Newspapers and television stations in the Philippines picked up on the story and widely reprinted the second panel, accompanied by hysterical editorials describing it as proof of "Malaysian racist hostility toward the people of the Philippines."
It blew up into a nationwide controversy. Finally, the Philippine government sent an official protest to the Malaysian government, demanding that the New Straits Times be censured and its cartoonist punished. The Malaysians and the newspaper declined to respond.
A leading Filipina columnist based in Hong Kong, who knew the story behind the cartoons, sent a scathing article to several Philippine newspapers, pointing out that the cartoon had nothing to do with Malaysia, the cartoonist lived in Hong Kong, and anyway, had they bothered to read the entire cartoon series that week, they would have noted that the message was strongly pro-Filipino and anti-racist. Clearly embarrassed, no newspaper printed the article. However, the controversy swiftly died.
Strange, but absolutely true.