World

Protest-themed CNY fairs spring up across HK to raise money

HONG KONG: Protest-themed Chinese New Year fairs have sprung up across Hong Kong to raise money and morale for the city's pro-democracy movement despite stiff resistance from the local authorities and pro-Beijing politicians.

The fairs are an annual staple in the run-up to Chinese New Year, which begins on Saturday and will see millions welcome the Year of the Rat. Usually, the fairs stock flowers, fruits, dried goods and traditional gifts.

In the past, political parties from across the spectrum set up stalls to raise money and awareness of their causes - often with satirical posters and products teasing their rivals.

But the government has banned such stalls this year at the 15 official fairs after more than seven months of political unrest. In response, nearly a dozen independent fairs have been set up, selling merchandise laden with references to the pro-democracy protests.

At a fair in Sai Ying Pun district, hundreds of shoppers formed long queues. One stall was giving away cloth bags with Chinese calligraphy ambigrams using the characters for both "Hong Kong" and "add oil", a phrase of encouragement.

Many shoppers and vendors criticised the government's decision to stop political parties setting up stalls at the official fairs.

"Cutting (them) seems to be one of the measures adopted by the government to punish the non-violent supporters of the protests," said Mr Tam Kwok Zun, 64, who was making fresh prints on T-shirts and bags at the Centre Street fair.

Some of the independent fairs have met opposition and found it difficult to find venues and even had to cancel. - AFP

WORLD