Charges against G.O.D. dropped

PUBLISHED : Friday, 18 January, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 18 January, 2008, 12:00am

The upmarket lifestyle chain store G.O.D. has vowed not to censor its creative designs after police decided to drop charges against it for selling T-shirts and postcards with the Chinese characters for '14K' - also the name of a major triad society.

Speaking at the Central police station yesterday, G.O.D. owner Douglas Young, also a designer, said police had decided not to press charges after accepting that the '14K' design had nothing to do with triads.

Mr Young said he did not feel the design had gone too far. 'As an artist, one has the responsibility to push the limits of society. There are many taboos and if we artists do not do anything to stimulate discussion, our society will not progress. My style is to challenge the limit, and for this, I and my company will not change.'

Police made no comment.

In November, Mr Young, along with 17 staff members, were arrested on suspicion of violating the Societies Ordinance for selling products bearing '14K'. Police seized 88 T-shirts and more than 500 postcards at G.O.D. branches in Causeway Bay, Central and Tsim Sha Tsui, as well as the company's offices and warehouse in Yuen Long.

The arts and culture community welcomed the police decision. The director of the theatre group Zuni Icosahedron, Mathias Woo Yan-wai, said resources should be devoted to 'catching real criminals'. He urged the government to clarify legal grey areas to give artists clearer guidelines. 'People will keep crossing the line if they do not know what is allowed and what is not,' Woo said. 'We asked the government about this. What we got were very vague answers asking us to refer to two books in English - but we perform in Chinese.'

Human Rights Monitor director Law Yuk-kai said he appreciated the police's concern but believed they had overreacted. 'Police should have taken into account the context of the entire issue. There is little reason to believe that G.O.D. or Mr Young and his staff are involved with the triads.'

Mr Law said police should have issued a verbal warning rather than making high-profile raids.

Artist Chow Chun-fai said he believed more artists would try to be provocative after the incident. 'It is good to be a bit rebellious ... this can help improve the diversity of our creative works.'

Fashion designer William Tang said: 'Designers should have a touch of humour. The police overreacted.'

Lawyer Simon Ip Shing-hing, however, warned that designers using '14K' imagery might not be so lucky in the future. 'The authorities might have believed that [Mr Young's] intention was just to create a gimmick. But the case could be treated differently next time. It's a matter of intention.'