Hong Kong: Illegal 14K Design

On November 1, 2007, Hong Kong Police force took action against a local household design chain store, G.O.D (Goods of Desire), confiscated 88 T-shirt with a “14K” logo and arrested 17 people, some were designers and some were shop keepers. The police claimed that they were in possession of triad society goods.

14K is a local triad group. The police also claimed that it is illegal to wear the T-shirt as it is illegal for anyone to wear triad accessories. The penalty can be up to HKD100,000 (USD74,000) and three years imprisonment.

The police action has resulted in public outrage. As one of the articles under the association ordinance, “claim to be a triad society member”, has been applied to arrest netizens a few months ago. Local bloggers pick up the issue quickly and some urged the government to amend the law.

The meaning of 14K does not necessarily stands for triad society; it can be 14K gold or monthly salary figure. Therefore, LittleOslo made his own T-shirt with a logo “monthly salary 14K”:

Memory-Melody-Mentality also made a T-shirt with a dog face to create a satire: If wearing a 14K T-shirt would make you a triad society member, then wearing a dog T-shirt would probably make you a dog. According to the law, a dog with more than 20 kg has to wear a less-than-1.5 m belt or it would be caught by the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department. So remember to tie yourself to a belt and ask your friend to hold it firmly if you wear a dog-face T-shirt!

Diumanpark pointed out that the implementation of the law can be more flexible:


Even though the law exists, it is not necessary to implement it strictly and mechanically, it can allow some flexibility. It is people behind the law.


To give discretion for G.O.D doesn't mean the society encourages the selling of this T-shirt. If people find the t-shirt annoying and against the society's moral standard, they can criticize the company, similar to the boycott of Nazi design that pressed the company to recall the product.


However, the police choose to search the shop without giving any warning. Such action is very conspicuous. Of course, the police has the power, they can self-directed the show for the mass media, for the triad society. However, such action would also destroy the atmosphere of a liberal society.

Henryporter revisited the history of the Association Ordinance and called for a legal reform:


The concept of triad society has changed. In the past, triad society penetrated into schools and induced teenage crime, now the situation has been replaced by small scale teenage peer group. As the civil society is more mature and the police more effective, there is less and less triad society blackmailing activities… Of course, our society may still be worried that the triad would become active again, we therefore need to preserve some articles to make illegal “triad society member”, “self-claim triad society member”, “instigating other to join the triad society”, “giving assistance to triad”, etc. However, with a new social environment, we can amend articles on “writing or talking in triad language”, “wearing accessories with triad society's name or language”, “performance of triad ritual”, etc.

The blogger provided some triad language examples:


Some number combinations such as 426, 438, 415, 432, they stand for certain position within the triad. According to the existing law, when someone said, “I am 426″ s/he would face a criminal charge.

Ben Ng criticized that the police action has threatened individual's freedom and creativity.


This kind of pan-moralism is very frightening. It not only kills creativities, but also threatens individual freedom. Hong Kong is becoming less and less tolerant; the city is turning into a mono color city with black and white moral principle.

Life is but an empty dream asked a simple question: is such action capable of crushing triad society? If yes, then it is such an easy job. If not, what is the purpose?


So the crushing down of triad is the crushing down of those who found themselves cool by wearing T-shirt which gives free vocal association with the triad, even though 99% of them have nothing to do with the triad. Well, this is to stop the triad culture… the police show is really expensive, but the ridiculous and incredible performance is worthy of price.

In respond to Ben Ng's opinion, Life is grey wondered if creativity can override morality:


Creative work is not equal to correctness, and we don't have to always support creative work. Maybe creative work shouldn’t be restricted by morality; but we have to consider the impact of the resulted product towards the society.

Daihung also disagreed with the saying that the 14K design is just for fun. Nazi's logo is no fun at all.

However, Tiney pointed out that we can criticize the design being banal or vulgar, however bad taste, it shouldn't become a reason for this kind of arrest.

Erynnyes called those who supported the police action hypocrites :



Triad society, no matter it is in the East or the West, is a theme for creative work. In U.K, U.S, Japan, Taiwan, and China, there are popular movies about the triad. According to Hong Kong police's logic, we have to ban all these movies in Hong Kong then? Because they set up bad example for our youth?

Creativity is borderless; it frequently steps onto the borderline of politics and morality. Creativity has a tendency to challenge authority. If we can't tolerate the T-shirt and insist to uphold the black and white principle, how can Hong Kong become a creative city?

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