Back by popular demand, Hong Kong fire service insists beloved character Anyone is here to stay despite reports of a ban
- More than 100 comments posted on department’s Facebook page within an hour in response to rumours that live-action version would be cut
- YouTube video featuring blue mannequin-like figure exceeds 130,000 views
His job is to teach Hongkongers what to do in an emergency, but the hugely popular fire service mascot Anyone had a lucky escape of his own on Wednesday, as the department confirmed the character was here to stay, just hours after reports of a possible ban.
The announcement came as internet users threw their support behind the blue mannequin-like figure, who had gone viral after demonstrating life-saving techniques at a press conference on Monday. The idea behind the name is that any member of the public can help in times of danger.
The performance by firefighters in blue suits won Anyone many fans. But detractors said it resembled a character in some Japanese porn films.
Speaking on a radio programme on Wednesday, Wade Wong Wang-leong, senior divisional officer from the Fire Services Department’s new Community Emergency Preparedness Division, assured the public that the live-action version of Anyone would continue to appear. He did not rule out Anyone visiting districts for promotional events.
“We hope residents will continue to follow Anyone’s future moves,” Wong said.
He refuted reports that the higher-ups in the department wanted to ban the live-action version of Anyone, adding that they gave the division a lot of creative space.
Wong said Anyone was played by staff from his division and that they had deliberately picked someone with a big belly for the role initially.
“Anyone is not a mascot or spokesperson – you and I are Anyone, who can help out in the community during emergencies,” he said, adding that anybody could be Anyone regardless of occupation, appearance, sex, body size and whether they were medical professionals, as long as they had the courage and heart to help.
Anyone also showed up on the department’s Facebook page on Wednesday afternoon, debunking the rumors of the ban. Anyone’s photo was included in the short post.
“I have been exhausted from work recently ... I just got up so I don’t know what happened,” the post said, adding Anyone would keep sharing advice on fire prevention, first aid and ways of escaping to safety.
Hashtags in the post were more specific to the reported ban and included “#Absolutely there’s no such thing”, “#Anyone is safe” and “#Bosses are very playful”.
The post received 7,400 likes and almost 500 comments in an hour.
Internet users began their fight to save Anyone late on Tuesday night, after RTHK, citing a department source, reported that the fire service had banned the use of real people to play the character. It could be presented only in the form of cartoons because the live version was “against the heroic image”, the report said. RTHK said then that it was waiting for an official reply.
A department insider, however, told the Post that there was no such ban, just an instruction to play it down.
“Avoid using Anyone if possible,” the source said.
Rumours of the ban prompted an immediate outcry on social media. Within an hour, more than 100 comments were posted on the department’s Facebook page asking it not to stop using the character.
“Hong Kong should be creative. Don’t let Anyone disappear,” one comment said.
“Without the laborious performance of Anyone, how could your Facebook page gain more than 14,000 likes in one day?” another user wrote. “Don’t burn the bridge after crossing it.”
On Monday, the department launched its official Facebook page featuring the character to spread information about fire prevention, first aid and other safety tips. By Tuesday night, the page had more than 15,000 likes and 14,000 followers.
This was not Anyone’s debut performance. The character first appeared in its animated form in the department’s promotional materials. It was also featured in a video produced by the department and published in August, with a spooky plot line to coincide with the seventh lunar month – and the Hungry Ghost Festival.
The video did not go viral until after Monday’s press conference, though it is now the most popular clip on the department’s YouTube channel with about 130,000 views, more than double what the second most popular video drew.
Anyone topped Google’s daily trending chart on Monday with more than 10,000 searches.