January 29, 2014 / 8:00 AM / 6 years ago

Plush wolf linked with Hong Kong leader back on shelves - and toilet rolls

HONG KONG (Reuters) - A plush wolf that quickly sold out last month in all Hong Kong branches of Swedish furniture retalier IKEA was back on the shelves on Wednesday and selling briskly as the toy has become a symbol of protest against the city’s embattled leader.

A man sells toilet paper printed with portraits of Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying and IKEA's plush wolf "Lufsig" (L) at a Chinese Lunar New Year market in Hong Kong January 29, 2014. REUTERS/Bobby Yip

Dressed in a red and white gingham shirt, the wolf became wildly popular when it was tossed at Hong Kong chief executive Leung Chun-ying at a public meeting in December.

Leung is nicknamed “the wolf” for his brash style and close ties to mainland China’s ruling Communist Party, making the toy based on the antagonist in the Red Riding Hood story an instant hit.

Within half an hour, the IKEA store in Causeway Bay, the city’s prime shopping district, had sold around 300 of its stock of 700 Lufsigs, which means “clumsy” in Swedish.

In Cantonese, the dialect spoken in the former British colony which reverted to Chinese rule in 1997, the name and the act of throwing the toy combine to create a profanity.

“I’ve bought it for my kid but also partly for myself to express my dissatisfaction with CY Leung, for all his policies not fulfilling expectations,” said Allen Lee.

Leung’s approval rating dipped to 47 percent in a poll conducted by Hong Kong University last week. Residents are unhappy about high property prices, a big wealth gap and attempts by Beijing to control the outcome of planned direct elections for Hong Kong leader in 2017.

Across the road, Lufsig and Leung made a cameo on novelty toilet paper at stalls selling wares for this week’s Lunar New Year festivities.

A stall run by Hong Kong’s liberal pro-democracy Democratic Party, offered two designs, one depicting the cuddly wolf, the other of Leung as comic and film superhero Iron Man.

“At this Chinese New Year market, we wanted to think of a product to bring the people a political message and something for practical use, so we decided on toilet paper,” said stallholder Ivan Cheng.

Cheng expected to sell all 4,000 rolls, priced at HK$68.90 ($8.87) for a pack of four, by the end of the day.

($1 = 7.7643 Hong Kong dollars)

Editing by Anne Marie Roantree and Ron Popeski

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