BEIJING » Chinese authorities have seized about 8,000 rolls of toilet paper and another 20,000 packages of tissue paper printed with unflattering images of the territory’s pro-Beijing chief executive, Leung Chun-ying, according to an official of the small political party who placed the order.
The items were to be sold at a market during Chinese New Year’s later this month, said Lo Kin-hei, a vice chairman of the Hong Kong Democratic Party.
The seizure comes after Hong Kong was shaken by a massive pro-democracy movement in which demonstrators demanded greater electoral freedom than Beijing is willing to grant. During the movement, protesters expressed anger at Leung, calling him a puppet of Beijing.
No reason was given for the seizure of the $12,900 worth of goods, Lo said.
"I guess (the Chinese authorities) don’t like people mocking government officials, especially high-ranking government officials after the movement. They have become more cautious about criticisms about them," he said.
The party’s 4,000 rolls of toilet paper with Leung’s images sold out at last year’s seasonal market and decided to get more this year from a factory in the Chinese city of Shenzhen, Lo said.
The images of Leung were cartoonish and unflattering. One image has him bearing two fangs, and another has the word "lying" on his forehead. The sickle-and-hammer symbol of the Communist Party of China also was printed on some products.
The order was placed under the name of a friend to obscure the party as the true buyer, and all communications were done through the friend instead of the party, he said.
Citing the need to protect the manufacturer, Lo declined to reveal the factory’s name and said he has no information on the whereabouts of the factory owner. "We are worried about what has happened to him," Lo said.
Calls to Shenzhen police rang unanswered on Saturday, and there has been no official report about such a seizure of toilet paper.
Lo said he found the act worrisome as it indicates further tightening by Chinese authorities on freedom of speech that is guaranteed in Hong Kong’s constitution.
"Many productions in Hong Kong rely on the mainland. This kind of tightening means in the future it will be more difficult to make products in the mainland," Lo said. "It’s alarmful for Hong Kong people that they keep suppressing freedom in Hong Kong. We will become the mainland if this kind of mocking will be not allowed in Hong Kong."