Hong Kong — Just call it the Fake Leap Forward.
In a satirical “Communist rally” aimed at mainland Chinese shoppers, about 100 Hong Kongers marched through the city on Sunday wearing Maoist costumes, yelling “love your country, buy Chinese products!”
Others held posters of Mao Zedong, branded with the mock-patriotic slogan “Chinese people should drink Chinese milk” — a dig at the throngs of mainland shoppers who enter Hong Kong to buy its infant formula, which is viewed as safer than Chinese infant formula.
Filled with apparent glee, protesters mockingly bellowed the Chinese national anthem off-key, and thrust Mao’s “Little Red Book” into the air.
At times, the “parody protest” became rowdy, with police wrestling several protesters to the ground as they attempted to break through police barriers.
“We’re here to protect our freedom”
Protest organizers insisted the rally was meant in good fun.
“My goal with this rally was to show my patriotism,” said organizer Barry Ma with a slight smirk. “You can figure out our meaning.”
Other protesters were more direct.
“We’re here to protect our laws and our freedom,” said a man surnamed Kang, in his 40s. “We don’t want Hong Kong to turn into another Chinese city.”
Paladin Cheng, 31, said there were “cultural differences” between Hong Kongers and mainlanders.
“Mainlanders cut in line, spit on the streets. We Hong Kongers really can’t accept that.”
Yet there were signs that not everyone understood the protest. Though many onlookers were smiling or laughing, some pedestrians were confused, thinking that the protesters were actual Communist supporters.
“I thought they were real,” gasped one onlooker to his companion.
Western tourists appeared the most bewildered.
We’re here to protect our laws and our freedom. We don’t want Hong Kong to turn into another Chinese city.
“I have no idea what’s going on,” a British visitor told CNN, even as the marchers surrounded him.
Later, a few online commenters remarked that the protesters made Hong Kong look bad.
“They succeeded in nothing but making a mockery of themselves. One keeps wondering how low Hongkongers can go,” wrote user “bolshoi” on the South China Morning Post.
Tensions between mainland Chinese and Hong Kongers have steadily increased in recent years, as more Chinese nationals flood into the former British colony to buy everything from food items to apartment buildings.
Last month, a group of protesters rallied in Hong Kong’s Tsim Sha Tsui shopping district, hurling racial slurs at mainlanders and scuffling with police.
Though only 7 million people live in Hong Kong, the city now hosts over 50 million visitors a year, largely from China — a number that is set to double in the next decade, according to Hong Kong’s Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development, Gregory So.
But while some fear China’s increasing presence, Hong Kong has also benefited from its mainland ties.
According to So, tourism makes up 4.5% of Hong Kong’s economy, and has “contributed a lot in creating job opportunities.