Pepper foam boy brings hot birthday message to town

PUBLISHED : Monday, 14 March, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 14 March, 2011, 12:00am

A mother and her nine-year-old son who was sprayed by the police with pepper foam during an anti-budget protest held the boy's birthday party outside the Central Government Offices yesterday. And they brought along two large cakes topped with a chocolatey message: 'No pepper please'.

Joseph, who turned nine yesterday, chose to spend his birthday at a rally at government headquarters, and vowed to join protests again. He was marching with his mother Elsa Ko, and another 200 people, calling for a universal retirement protection scheme.

Joseph has been protesting with his mother all his life. Ko first brought the one-year-old baby to a protest march in July 2003 in a baby carrier.

But he said yesterday, while he was happy to be celebrating his birthday for the first time 'in a special place', it brought back some unhappy memories.

He was sprayed last Sunday when police tried to clear protesters in Central during an anti-budget rally.

'I am also a bit unhappy, the government was bad. It hit me with pepper spray,' he said. 'But never mind, I will forgive them [the police].' The experience did not deter him from joining the rally and sharing the two cakes made by his mother.

A Primary Three pupil studying at an international school, Joseph said he would come out again, despite what happened last time. 'I will just have to be more careful to prevent being sprayed again.'

Earlier, Secretary for Security Ambrose Lee Siu-kwong said it was 'inappropriate to be using children as a weapon to defend amid confrontation', and that 'it is bad for children to bring them to those violent scenes'.

His mother, a housewife in her forties, said yesterday that comments against minors joining protests were discriminatory.

'Protesting is a basic human right, even for children,' she said. 'Joseph is informed about the protests he joins. He asks me where we are going, for what purpose and with whom. I am disappointed in Lee's speech, it discriminates against young people. We are human, it is normal for us to care about where we live.'