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371 A Beijing Wolf in Hong Kong: Lufsig and Imagining Communities of Political Resistance to Chinese Unification David R. Gruber D ecember 7, 2013, was not the first time that Leung Chun-Ying, the Chief Executive of Hong Kong, known locally as “CY,” faced rebellion and chaos at a town hall meeting. After a contentious election where many on the legislative council refused to vote,1 and after speaking only Mandarin Chinese during his July 1, 2012, inauguration without using “one word of Cantonese,” the predominant local language,2 CY was strongly perceived as a Beijing-appointed stooge. For many in Hong Kong, CY was perceived as a wolf in sheep’s clothing. And so, on July 2, his first day in office, CY was “forced to flee” his first town hall meeting, even as he attempted to reassure concerned citizens of his goodwill and moderate policies. However, after the hall filled with outspoken naysayers, CY stepped off the stage, locked himself in a nearby room for an hour, and then made a speedy escape.3 Protestors that day complained about the encroaching influence from Beijing, rising housing costs, poor environmental conditions, and CY’s own alleged corruption and ties to 372 David R. Gruber the Communist Party in mainland China (CPC or the Party).4 If the rhetorical work of imagining communities hinges in part on seeing elected leaders as synecdochical embodiments of the nation, then CY’s taking office struck many Hong Kongers as a disaster—for he was imagined as the CPC’s standard-bearer, and thus as foreshadowing of China’s accelerating encroachments upon daily life in Hong Kong. Over a year later, in early December, many of the same issues bubbled beneath the surface of Hong Kong’s vibrant political community, where the question of Hong Kong–China relations dominated discussion. The prodemocracy movement had spent the past year calling CY a “wolf,” as it faced down a national education policy with a clear pro-Beijing unification agenda and fought against numerous plans to eliminate the ability of Hong Kongers to vote directly for the chief executive position.5 Many in the prodemocracy camp clearly felt embittered about what they perceived to be CY’s role as a catalyst for and champion of China’s escalating moves to control Hong Kong. Consequently, when CY arrived for yet another town hall meeting in December 2013, protestors gathered to confront him. Led by members of the prodemocracy League of Social Democrats, those demonstrating started yelling. Then someone threw an egg that hit Financial Secretary John Tsang square on the head. Then protestors threw “hell money”; this fake cash is usually given to dead ancestors as a ritualistic offering of thanks, but when thrown down at the feet of the living , it serves as a serious insult, ostensibly as visual evidence of the charge of corruption and greed.6 The most notable moment of protest, however, was when a stuffed animal—a toy wolf doll, reminiscent of the notorious protagonist in “Little Red Riding Hood”—flew through the air like superman, heading straight for CY.7 Amid the chaos, a voice punctuated the din: “Lo Mo Sai” (pinyin: “Lù mǔ xi”), a man screamed in Cantonese. This was, more or less, Lufsig, the name of the poorly translated toy that was being sold by the local IKEA. The Cantonese name sounded strikingly similar to a well-known profane statement proclaiming aggressive masculine domination, something similar to “throw your mother’s cunt.” From all indications, the one-pound, soft, $10 (USD) stuffed IKEA wolf, known in Swedish and English as “Lufsig,” never touched CY (see Figure 1). However, after Lufsig was shown on local TV sailing through the air accompanied by the harsh profanity,8 all of the IKEA stores in Hong Kong Lufsig and Imagining Communities of Political Resistance 373 sold out of Lufsig within two days.9 Within one week, Lufsig had its own Facebook page with thousands of “likes.”10 For reasons detailed below, Lufsig had captured the imagination of the city’s activists and would soon become a sensation. Indeed, in the months to follow, the doll appeared numerous times across Hong Kong’s social media sites. Photographs of local Hong Kongers posing with Lufsig became particularly popular. Following the incident, Lufsig was paraded in protest marches, painted into local street art scenes, cast as a lead character in numerous homemade animations and music videos, and promoted by some of the city’s local celebrities...


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