Manneken-Pis, an iconic statue of a urinating boy in the Belgian capital of Brussels, will not be adorned with a Hong Kong “costume” on Friday following complaints.

The Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office in Brussels donated the outfit to the city in 2012. According to the city’s website, it was due to don the costume again this week to mark the 25th anniversary of the Handover.

Manneken-Pis. Photo: GovHK.

Member of European Parliament Reinhard Bütikofer tweeted a picture of himself with a protest flag in front of the statue: “HKSAR and its advocates had wanted to use a popular Brussels tourist attraction, the Manneken-Pis, to peddle their propaganda about how great it is that Hong Kong’s liberties are now being aborted. The Brussels government stopped it. Thanks for that clarity,” he said.

Photo: Member of European Parliament Reinhard Bütikofer, via Twitter.

The statue last featured the costume during the Handover celebrations five years ago.

It was set to be visible from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., according to a now-removed page on the city’s website.

Ommegang renaissance-era pageant

Delphine Houba, the city’s alderwoman in charge of culture and tourism, said that Mannekin-Pis will be wearing a tribute to Brussels’ Ommegang renaissance-era pageant instead of the Hong Kong “costume.” The local celebration marks the arrival of Holy Roman Emperor Charles V in Brussels in 1549.

Manneken-Pis in 2015.

According to Politico, Houba said that it “is an important date in the cultural calendar of the City of Brussels with the Ommegang recognised… to the intangible heritage of the UNESCO.” Press officers did not reportedly clarify what happened to the Hong Kong plan.

A government press release in 2017 described the outfit. “[A] black traditional Chinese jacket bearing the HKSAR’s flying dragon logo and its coloured ribbons is teamed with a pair of trendy black jeans and red shoes with white laces. A tablet computer, a symbol of technology-driven modern city life, completes the costume,” a spokesperson said, adding that it represented “east meets west.”

An earlier Hong Kong promotion displayed on two of the city’s trams was reportedly axed following complaints about China’s human rights record. Trams bearing the slogan “A New Era – Stability. Prosperity. Opportunity” were meant to promote the Handover festivities around the capital between June 7 and August 29.

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Tom is the editor-in-chief and founder of Hong Kong Free Press. He has a BA in Communications and New Media from Leeds University and an MA in Journalism from the University of Hong Kong. He has contributed to the BBC, Euronews, Al-Jazeera and others.