Hong Kong pro-democracy group Demosisto has Lunar New Year bags ‘censored’ after mainland Chinese firm refuses to print logo

Mainland Chinese manufacturers have refused to print certain Lunar New Year products containing political slogans or satire, according to Hong Kong’s pro-democracy camp.

Localist group Demosisto claimed a mainland printing company, commissioned by a firm in Hong Kong, had asked to remove the group’s logo and name from a tote bag before it was cleared for production. Demosisto will sell the bags, without the logo, at a new year fair which opens on Wednesday.

“Staff [on the mainland] said they were told by the authorities about a list of Chinese or English words that could not be printed,” Demosisto chairman Ivan Lam Long-yin said.

“The staff said the list was not only against Demosisto – any reference to Hong Kong independence could not be printed.”

A Democratic Party request to print banners with satirical cartoons of Hong Kong politicians, including Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, was also rejected.

“The manufacturers flat out rejected us, even though the design did not contain the Democratic Party’s logo,” said Kelvin Lai King-wai, the head of the party’s creative media division.

“They told us they would not print anything that involved politicians including [former chief executive] Leung Chun-ying or Carrie Lam.”

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It was not the first time the democrats, who hoped to raise funds at the start of the Year of the Pig, had faced trouble printing products in mainland China.

Having sold out of toilet paper with then chief executive Leung’s face on it in 2014, the Democratic Party commissioned HK$80,000-worth of the same product in 2015 – only for mainland Chinese authorities to seize it all before the fair opened.

The party said it had learned its lesson and would now source from more than one mainland manufacturer or also use Hong Kong manufacturers. Another activist group, League of Social Democrats, had products and promotion materials printed in Taiwan instead.

For Demosisto’s Lam, however, the bigger concern was not the need to search for new manufacturers but the looming worry the group was being targeted on an unspecified “list”.

“We could not register as company or for bank accounts [in Hong Kong]. It could well be that we are being watched,” he said.

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