Cuddly protest icon that says 'neigh' to censorship

Stallholders at Lunar New Year fairs expect the 'grass mud horse' to become a runaway hit, thanks to its filthy translation in Chinese

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 22 January, 2014, 10:26am
UPDATED : Thursday, 23 January, 2014, 3:39am

First there was Lufsig, the toy wolf who became a symbol of political protest thanks to his obscene name in Chinese, now a new cuddly protest icon has hit town: the "grass mud horse".

The mainland symbol of dissent against censorship is proving a popular choice of product for stalls at the Lunar New Year fairs, which will welcome the Year of the Horse from Saturday.

With a moniker that sounds in Chinese like a phrase suggesting an unspeakable act with one's mother, the grass mud horse - supposedly a species of alpaca - has been adopted by mainland internet users to mock the government's efforts to crack down on obscenity.

It arrives in Hong Kong with public mirth still widespread over Lufsig, the Ikea toy with a Chinese name that sounded like an obscene anatomical reference. Ikea quickly changed the name, but not before the toy had become a symbol of protest against Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying, whose nickname is "The Wolf".

Tommy Yip Kwan-yeung, who will run a stall with his classmates from City University's department of management, will sell a cushion shaped like the head of the grass mud horse. With a space inside, the cushion can be used as a hand warmer.

"Our neighbouring stalls will be selling grass mud horses as well. But they are conventional figures, without unique designs or functions," Yip said. "We are not worried about the competition."

The team picked the animal for its funny face rather than its vulgar links, he said, but if buyers chose it for another reason, "we have nothing against it".

Other participants at the Victoria Park fair are bringing a modern twist to traditional crafts.

Ho Siu-wa, who has secured a stall with 20 Hong Kong Baptist University students, will sell paper cuttings featuring slang sayings, rather than the more traditional cuttings which feature greetings and wish people luck.

One of Ho's cuttings - which reads "starting from three, moving towards four" - refers to the university grade point average (GPA), and is likely to prove popular with students. A GPA of four is the best. Ho's stall also will sell a product featuring a horse character - a hugging pillow designed by the team.

Forty secondary school students from Kiangsu-Chekiang College will sell traditional snacks including Put Chai Pudding (red bean and brown sugar rice cakes), sesame cakes and peanut candies in partnership with Super Bowl King Traditional Snack.

Coco Cheng Lok-yee, 16, said teammates had received training on how to prepare the snacks. "It's easy to break a Put Chai Pudding when scraping it out of its bowl," she said.

Her teacher Desmond Lam Kwong-yip said the school would use the stall to help educate about local food. "Students have to do presentations about the evolution of street food over the years," he said.