Mystery of the deflated Rubber Duck: were cigarette butts to blame?

Now Chinese mainland tourists are blamed for the demise of Rubber Duck: rumours circulate that cigarette butts turned art installation into an omlette

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 16 May, 2013, 11:28am
UPDATED : Thursday, 16 May, 2013, 11:00pm

The large inflatable duck that has been sitting in Tsim Sha Tsui’s promenade for weeks took its last breath of polluted harbour air on Tuesday - deflating from a 16.5-metre-tall piece of art to a flattened rubber carcass in a matter of hours. 

Rubber Duck, a creation of Dutch conceptual artist Florentijin Hofman, was for weeks the talk of the town, drawing throngs of visitors, local and mainland Chinese alike and tourists from around the world. The duck exhibition was supposed to end June 9.

Amid bird flu fears, a huge dock strike, miserable weather and the endless Legco filibuster, Rubber Duck was a happy sight for the city – and an even happier one for the media. This newspaper cheerfully suggested that Rubber Duck had helped unite the city and served as a “good reminder to reflect and appreciate things we often take for granted”.

So loved was this rubber duck, that its untimely “death” naturally led to conspiracy theories. Some pointed their finger at vandalism, others at duck haters anticipating a violent demise. Hong Wrong Blog joked the duck had succumbed to lung cancer from pollution.

Most bizarre, however, was the rumour that mainland tourists had “flicked lit cigarette butts at it”. The Southern Metropolis Daily reported this on Thursday.

The allegations were enough to draw the attention of state media. China Central Television (CCTV) even took to its official Sina Weibo account to clear up the rumours on Thursday.

“There have been rumours that Hong Kong’s big yellow duck was ‘burned to death’ by tourists from Shenyang, which had thrown 30 lit cigarette butts at it. Today Hong Kong has confirmed that damage was not man-made. Organisers are just doing a routine physical examination.”

“Fowl” play was quickly ruled out by Harbour City management, the duck’s host. Wind and strong waves had supposedly caused the duck to deflate and collapse. It was merely taking a duck nap as it conveyed in its tweet “sleepy time” on Tuesday.

Rubber Duck has since been plucked from the sea and folded up into a neat square next to the harbour.

As our friends at China blog Shanghaiist may be quick to point out soon, the Post will be continuing comprehensive and in-depth coverage of Hong Kong's mysterious duck deflation. So stay tuned.