Ching Ming respect for the dead … and Louis Vuitton

Ching Ming offerings include HK$38 paper Chanel handbags but after trademark rows, shop owner prefers not to upset Louis Vuitton

PUBLISHED : Friday, 05 April, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 05 April, 2013, 3:57am

Hundreds of thousands of people paid tribute to the dead during the Ching Ming "grave-sweeping" festival yesterday but there was a whiff of change in the air amid the smoke of burning offerings and incense.

While paper Chanel handbags and Gucci shoes were still on sale, grave-sweepers were hard-pressed to find Louis Vuitton paper replicas this year as paper-offerings stores grew wary of laws against trademark infringements.

And at Sheung Shui, a green group was handing out fresh flowers in an effort to campaign against burning paper offerings altogether - to avoid hill fires, cut down on carbon emissions and save paper.

To Chin-sung, owner of Chun Sing Hong, a paper-offerings shop in Sai Ying Pun, withdrew all his lookalike Louis Vuitton products, at HK$38 a pack, but Chanel, Gucci, Ferrari and Apple paper replicas were still available at the same price for customers who wanted to send designer products to their loved ones in the afterworld.

Explaining the absence of the French brand's logo, To said: "It's not worth getting ourselves into legal trouble over it, especially when we don't earn much by selling the products."

Last month, Democratic Party lawmaker Albert Ho Chun-yan warned that luxury brands were increasingly going after small retailers instead of manufacturers over copycat products.

He said Louis Vuitton recently sued a Hong Kong hair salon which had chairs covered in a fabric similar to its famous brown check pattern. And it asked for compensation from two stores, claiming the items on sale infringed its trademark. The cases were reportedly settled out of court.

Not all the famous-name offerings spelled luxury though. Ancestors who liked fast food can get a McDonald's package of chips, a pineapple and sweet taro pie, chicken nuggets, a Filet-O-Fish burger and a coke.

Prices on paper offerings were similar to last year despite increased costs due to the rising yuan. "We didn't raise the price much as we want to keep our customers," said Miss Tsang, who owns a paper-offerings shop in Causeway Bay. She said any price increases were kept below 5 per cent.

Chrysanthemums, a traditional symbol of death, were among the flowers handed out by members of the Conservancy Association to promote a greener alternative to burning paper.

"When we mourn our ancestors, it's about our heart, not about how many paper offerings we burn for them," said the association's senior project officer Ivan Ho Kin-man.

But although fresh flowers feature heavily in the Ching Ming festival, some grave sweepers did not welcome the idea of doing away with paper offerings.

"It's a tradition that is difficult to change - and it's just once a year," one man said.

He was among the thousands who made the sombre procession to the last resting places of their loved ones in yesterday's drizzly and sticky weather. With relative humidity hitting 96 per cent, it did not make the job of tidying graves easy, especially when many cemeteries, including at Diamond Hill, are built on steep slopes.

Meanwhile, members of the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements in China held a ceremony at the Tsim Sha Tsui clock tower to mourn those who died in Tiananmen Square on June 4, 1989.