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Fringe groups are misusing Pokemon to score political points

Staging illegal protests on the pretence of playing game is yet another example of how everything in Hong Kong is politicised

PUBLISHED : Monday, 01 August, 2016, 12:54am
UPDATED : Monday, 01 August, 2016, 12:54am

In Hong Kong, everything is politicised. So, it seems, not even Pokemon Go is exempt. The innocent game app is, unsurprisingly, being exploited by self-styled localists who have trouble drawing a crowd on their own.

Taking advantage of the new game and its ability to attract large crowds of people, several hitherto unknown groups have been telling people to gather at pre-designated sites, ostensibly to catch virtual monsters, but in reality to protest and rally to their cause.

People’s Wall News says it won’t ask for police permission to stage a protest against a new political declaration for potential Legislative Council election candidates, and the alleged persecution of University of Hong Kong student leader Billy Fung King-yan and localist leader Edward Leung Tin-kei.

It has advised would-be participants not to worry about the police if they are questioned for taking part in an illegal gathering because they can just pretend to be part of a ‘flash mob” playing the augmented-reality game.

Pokemon Go and politics: beware those who augment reality in the pursuit of power

Another obscure anti-mainland localist group called Hong Kong Is Not China is staging a Pokemon hunt at a popular public park in Tuen Mun against its being “colonised” by middle-aged women from the mainland who congregate there, and are supposedly unruly, loud and disruptive to other park visitors.

It’s not clear why the group thinks its own planned gathering wouldn’t be even more disruptive to neighbours.

In recent nights, hundreds of the app’s players have gathered in crowded places to catch virtual monsters after receiving location instructions online. Police have so far taken a mostly hands-off approach and only advised people to play safe and avoid disturbing other people.

But it’s a mystery why those groups think police can’t intervene under the Public Order Ordinance if their supporters are using the game as an excuse to stage unauthorised protests. After all, they are silly enough to provide written evidence about their intentions on their Facebook pages. Imagine how some people would react if the government used Pokemon characters to promote its political agendas.

Now I can understand people wearing Guy Fawkes masks to make a political statement at rallies. But exploiting Meowth, Jirachi and Pikachu for political gain? Come on, show some respect for people’s childhood nostalgia.