Rationing fashion was bound to stir passions

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 07 July, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 07 July, 2007, 12:00am

Freedom of assembly is subject to respect for other people's rights to go about their normal activities. For example, rallies and marches need permission to ensure a reasonable balance is struck between the two. Even so, things can get out of hand, such as when an estimated half a million people marched in opposition to security legislation in 2003.

There is no such excuse, however, for the disruptive scenes outside The Landmark mall in Central yesterday when the international hit designer bag 'I'm not a plastic bag' went on sale at two outlets there.

People had begun queuing the day before. By yesterday morning the crowd had grown so much the footpath was seriously obstructed and tempers were frayed. Part of the mall was closed to the public to prevent a stampede that could have resulted in injury or damage.

The public response should not have come as a surprise. The Anya Hindmarch-designed cotton bags are already a hit in London and New York. Women queued from 3am at a Sainsbury's supermarket in London and 20,000 sold out in an hour. Yet a spokeswoman for the local distributor said it did not expect such overwhelming demand - an inexplicable failure to grasp Hongkongers' craving for 'must-have' things.

Boundless shopping, and enthusiasm for it, are part of the fabric of Hong Kong life. Nonetheless, life is meant to go on without being obstructed by it. That was not the case yesterday for nearby shops and their customers, not to mention the thousands of passers-by who were also inconvenienced. It did not help that the distributor refused to disclose the number of bags for sale on the first day, and that shoppers who registered with one of the two outlets to buy the bags found they still had to queue. What was wrong with assuring them of supply provided they returned by an agreed time? That would have shortened the queue; if supplies ran out, people could have been advised. Out of respect for both customers and the general public, the event could have been organised with more forethought and consideration. After all, even if any publicity is good publicity, the bag does not need it.