'Hello Kitty' protests take swipe at new leader
The heat yesterday did not deter protesters from turning up with props and creative banners - some with Hello Kitty images - to ridicule and question the integrity of new Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying.
The Japanese kitten icon, used by internet users to mock Leung after he was caught in a scandal over illegal structures at his home, featured in some of the most eye-catching props at the rally, including a pink tank and big blue balloon.
Earlier this month, Leung said he found Hello Kitty stickers on a wall in one of the rooms of his house on The Peak, to prove he was not the property's first occupant and hence did not build the illegal structures.
An internet user who identified himself as Calvin summoned an alliance of about 30 fellow internet users and marched with the blue Hello Kitty balloon.
'There's a Hello Kitty fan among us,' said Calvin. 'She is unhappy that her idol, who doesn't have a mouth, is wronged by Leung. We don't believe what he said about the illegal structures at his house.'
The armoured vehicle, created by a group called Art Citizens, went all the way to government headquarters in Admiralty. Two protesters, one wearing a helmet with Hello Kitty stickers, sat inside the vehicle as three men pushed it from behind.
The armoured vehicle, labelled 'the Cultural Bureau', was a veiled attempt to mock Leung and Florence Hui Hiu-fai, who is tipped to be the culture minister.
In another parody, Leung is seen in a Nazi uniform, posing like Adolf Hitler. Another depicted him as Pinocchio with a long nose, while cardboard posters set up by the Labour Party showed images of a wolf, an animal associated with Leung during the campaign.
Among the crowd were some first-timers, many of them born in the 1990s, along with annual participants. They waited for more than an hour in Victoria Park before being let out by the police.
'From what [Leung] said and what is reported, I feel he is China's [chief executive], not Hong Kong's,' said first-timer Stephanie Hui Man-nga, a 19-year-old student who received her A-level exam results last week.
'It seems to me he is backed by Beijing and he does not take our interests - freedom and democracy - to heart,' she said.
Annual participants like businessman Ellis Leung, who bought a Hello Kitty balloon to protest, said he doubted that Leung was 'not an underground communist' and that the new leader was hiding things in the property scandal.
The demonstrators waited in the afternoon heat in Victoria Park as police arranged for them to leave via only two exits. Some suffered heat stroke and others fainted.
As they squeezed their way out of the park and continued along three of the six lanes in Causeway Road outside the Central Library, some lost their patience. They scuffled with police and eventually forced open the other three lanes.
Philip Shiu, a mainland student from Polytechnic University who protested outside Beijing's liaison office in Western last night, said he was overwhelmed by the turnout at the march. 'I know Hong Kong people are discontented with Leung Chun-ying but I didn't expect it to be to this extent.'
Shiu said he was disappointed with the liaison office's support for Leung in the chief executive election in March and, more recently, Leung's property scandal.
Some groups took the opportunity to trumpet their own causes. 'Left? Over!', a new group set up by 10 participants in the Occupy Central movement, raised concerns about food waste. About 40 members of the Hong Kong Cycling Alliance rode their bikes to call for a cyclist-friendly city.
As usual, the footbridges over the march route were crammed with onlookers.
Among them was Bernard Chan, newly appointed by Leung as an Executive Council member. Chan - clad in sunglasses, a sports outfit and running shoes - said it was his duty to listen to the people at the scene. 'The challenges facing the new government are the deep-seated conflicts that have been unresolved,' he said.
As night set in and the last group marched to Tamar, fireworks shot up in the sky over the harbour. But the marchers refused to let the sounds drown their chants, shouting every time the fireworks sparkled: 'No waste of money. Cash back.'
Reporting by Joyce Ng, Tony Cheung, Simpson Cheung, Thomas Chan, Stuart Lau and Johnny Tam