An entrepreneur who came under fire for putting up a provocative statue of an anti-government protester at one of his childrens’ clothing stores said on Tuesday he hopes to inspire other business owners to speak out on political issues – once they see he hasn’t been “murdered” for airing his opinions.
Herbert Chow, who runs the local Chickeeduck clothing chain, had last week put up a white statue depicting a protester donning a helmet and gas mask in the middle of one of his shops in Tsuen Wan, saying it was a Father’s Day promotion.
The statue is still up despite a warning from the shopping mall and a backlash from not only pro-establishment figures, but some anti-government protesters as well – who questioned whether the statue was a cynical ploy to attract more business from the ‘yellow economic circle’.
Whatever his intentions, the statue drew long queues outside the shop, and sales at the outlet topped all branches last week.
Chow said he never expected any “positive or negative” repercussions from putting up the display, but he now hopes it sends a strong signal to other SME owners that politics doesn’t have to be taboo even when doing business.
“I hope more small and medium enterprises will voice out, and in a friendly way, tell the central government ‘stop the national security law and stop doing this to us because this is not the Hong Kong we want’, he said.
“If more SME people would speak up and they see me not being killed, murdered, then they’ll have the courage to actually speak up more, and with more voices, then we’ll get the message across.”
Chow added that SMEs have the potential to push for change, as they form the bulk of all registered entities in Hong Kong, and employ 45 percent of the total workforce.
“We are not small”, he said.
Chow also revealed that one of the reasons why he decided to put up the statue was his ‘revulsion’ at the Secretary for Education, Kevin Yeung, for instructing school principals to punish students who boycott classes, or repeatedly make political gestures like forming human chains on campus.
“If you look at what’s happening in Hong Kong today, all the attempted educational modifications… I don’t want to call it brainwashing, ok, but modifications to it… The involvement of our education minister in terms of trying to tell the headmaster what to do – that’s revolting.”
Chow said he hopes Yeung now hears the people speaking up against government interference in schools.
“The strongest reminder I want to give to him is that let the headmasters do their job, please.”
The businessman also said he hasn’t heard back from the Tsuen Wan shopping mall after it sent him an initial letter accusing him of breaching their tenancy contract by putting up the statue.
He said he had requested further discussions, but there has been no response yet.