A Sham Shui Po shopping mall updated a racy cartoon billboard over the weekend after a pro-government district councillor complained about obscenity. The images of the scantily-clad women went viral earlier this month but were removed following the complaint. On Saturday, however, the mall unveiled a replacement billboard with cartoon women in near-identical clothing – though the new figures do not conform to mainstream beauty norms.

Selfie time. Photo: Chau Ho Man via USP United Social Press.

The updated posters attracted hundreds of Hongkongers, who flocked to the location over the long weekend for a selfie.

The original three drawings were part of a series titled “GOOD GIRL” featuring scantily clad girls in racy poses. They were created by renowned illustrator and comic writer Elphonso Lam – nicknamed “Long Baton” owing to similarities in the pronunciation of his Chinese name.

Photo: The Stand News.

Sham Shui Po District Councillor Nicole Lau organised a small petition in protest last week, demanding that Dragon Centre remove the billboards, citing complaints from residents. The mall proceeded to remove them citing safety concerns amid an encroaching typhoon.

Another renowned Hong Kong illustrator – Kam Siu-Man – then called on local artists to produce derivative work based on the billboards in tribute to the original creator.

Kam’s updated versions of the women appeared on Saturday night. The original cartoons were replaced with an obese woman, a woman with protruding teeth, and another bespectacled feminine figure in a grey hoodie. Each sported the same sexy poses and attire.

Kam Siu-Man’s homage. Photo: Elphonso Lam via Facebook.

Hongkongers who grew up with Kam’s comic books would recognise two of the classic characters as “Fat auntie four” and “Whistle-tooth Jane,” while the third is a feminised depiction of Lam – the original artist himself.

Sexism debate

Feminist commentators in Hong Kong chimed in on the saga. Emilia Wong, a local feminist influencer known for posting racy images online, wrote on Facebook that the incident highlighted how Hongkongers stigmatised the idea of projecting sexual desire towards women in a different way to how straight men are treated.

She said that Kam’s work celebrated the diversity of female beauty norms. But she also questioned whether the drawings may be criticised for objectifying women if they had featured real women, instead of comics.

Another Facebook page titled “Feminist Fuckboy” also offered a lengthy commentary on the idea of the male gaze and criticism against Second Wave Feminism, as seen in the Dragon Centre’s billboards.

Lau, the district councillor who initiated complaints, later told The Stand News that she was aware of different viewpoints, but had sought to reflect voices from constituents who had voiced their complaints.

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Selina Cheng

Selina Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist who previously worked with HK01, Quartz and AFP Beijing. She also covered the Umbrella Movement for AP and reported for a newspaper in France. Selina has studied investigative reporting at the Columbia Journalism School.