[The author of this post is a contributor to citizen media platform inmediahk.net, which is quoted in this post.]
A Hong Kong protester threw a stuffed toy wolf named Lufsig from furniture and home goods giant IKEA at the city's Chief Executive CY Leung during a speech on December 7 in a community consultation meeting, accusing the leader of lacking commitment to the city's democratic reform.
Lufsig wasn't chosen to be the protest prop at random. CY Leung was nicknamed “the wolf” in early 2012 during the election of the chief executive. Furthermore, the Cantonese pronunciation of the mainland Chinese translation of Lufsig into Lo Mo Sai (路姆西) resembles the offensive phrase “mom's c**t”, and the word “throw” in Cantonese resembles the word “f**k”, making the action of throwing Lufsig at the chief executive take on a whole new offensive and vulgar meaning.
While the indecency involved in the symbolic action makes it difficult for the mainstream media to deliver the message, the story has gone viral online in less than two days. That same evening, a Facebook page for the stuffed toy wolf was created to celebrate the protest and collect spoof pictures.
The day after the protest, Lufsig had already become an Internet meme similar to the Grass Mud Horse, which is a symbolic defiance of widespread Internet censorship in China. Fans of Lufsig scrambled to get a hold of the toy from IKEA and from online shopping platforms. A rumor soon spread that IKEA had taken Lufsig off the shelves; a Facebook event page demanding IKEA “release” Lufsig was set up in response on December 9.
Ruby Lai was one of those hunting for Lufsig. She rushed from Shatin IKEA to Kowloon IKEA on December 9 and was lucky to get her hands on four Lufsigs. She described the craze at inmediahk.net, a citizen journalism platform:
我：「妖無晒貨！我係沙田趕黎架大佬！」 男生A阿南：「我係上水呀！」 男生B阿北：「我係黃大仙姐…不過佢話遲D有貨喎。」
I arrived at IKEA Kowloon bay branch at 3 p.m. and ran up 3-4 stories, didn't see a single Lufsig tail. Eventually, I found the stuffed toy area only to see that Lufsig's shelves were empty! Four whole shelves were empty! I almost collapsed, as if my girlfriend suddenly told me that she would marry another person tomorrow. I saw a few other young men approaching the cart with the same face of disappointment. We exchanged looks and started talking:
Me: “Damn it, all sold out. I rushed here from Shatin!”
Ah Nan: “Me from Sheung Shui!”
Ah Buk: “Me from Wong Ta Sin… But the sales person said they would replace the stock soon.”
I couldn't wait and dashed to an IKEA salesperson, who were walking toward us.
Me: “Are you in charge of the toys?”
Male sales: “Yes, the stock will arrive at 4 p.m., you can wait near cart number 42.”
Three hundred Lufsig arrived, and Ruby and her new friends were lucky enough to each get hold of five Lufsigs. She is generous to sell one of her Lufsigs to a man who had waited for 30 minutes in vain:
More than 100 people lined up, and a few dozen weren't able to buy the toy because many people in the queue bought more than five Lufsigs. Many approached us and asked if we would sell our Lufsigs to them. We replied that we would sell to those who had lined up for more than 30 minutes.[…] Eventually, I sold one of my Lufsig to a Mr. M who rushed from Shatin and lined up for more than 30 minutes, and Ah Nan also sold one to another person in the queue. When we were about to leave IKEA, a boy who looked high school-aged dashed forward and asked if I could sell him one, he said: “I just rushed here from Tin Shui Wai!” [It takes about an hour and a half to travel from Tin Shui Wei to Kowloon Bay].
Yuen Chan, a journalism lecturer, explained the nature of Lufsig mania in her blog from news website Huffington Post:
Lufsig mania has its critics — those who see a bunch of lemmings blindly following the latest fad or view the mass purchasing of the toy as symptomatic of a collective mental illness. I see it more as a manifestation of a Chinese saying, “to find merriment in bitterness.”
Even as I was relishing the dark humor of Lufsig, I was trying to figure out why I found him subversive. It was only after talking with Ruby that I realized that Lufsig, or Lo Mo Sai, had bypassed the very profanity of the phrase its name resembles. The name no longer seems like an aggressive, misogynist insult — it has become a symbol of solidarity and protest. I can't wait to receive the toy, which has so quickly become an icon in our society.
According to the official explanation from IKEA Sweden, the word Lufsig originates from the Swedish word “lufsa”, which is a verb meaning “lumber” or “shamble”. When turned into an adjective by adding the suffix -ig, it means clumsy, shabby and untidy. The latest reply from IKEA to inmediahk.net expressed regret over the unfortunate Chinese translation of Lufsig in Cantonese, and corrected the translation to Lu Fuk Sai. But judging from the reactions from inmediahk's news thread on Facebook, netizens are not happy about the new name.
In response to the craze, CY Leung posted a photo with Lufsig on the government's website on December 11 and said he had bought one for his daughter as a Christmas present.