Hong Kong government’s dinosaur mascot apologises for cruel joke about trans sex worker

caricatures of a recent incident

A Hong Kong government mascot has been forced to apologise after backlash over a cruel post about a trans woman’s near-escape from police. 

Ah Tak, a dinosaur mascot commissioned by the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department (FEHD) to be Hong Kong’s “keep clean ambassador”, landed itself in trouble on Friday (23 September), when the team posted on Facebook caricatures of a recent incident involving a trans woman.

It followed a video, which went viral last week, showing a trans woman climbing out of a window in an attempt to escape police.

Screengrab of a now-deleted post by Keep Clean Ambassador Ah Tak posted on LIHKG forum. (LIHKG forum/Coconuts Hong Kong)

According to news site Coconuts Hong Kong, the woman captured in the recording has been identified by police as a 30-year-old from Thailand. 

It is believed she had been trying to escape prostitution charges but, following the video, was arrested for violating conditions of her stay. 

Ah Tak’s offensive post caption read: “Ai! Today I looked up for a while and now I’ve to wash my eyes… who knew I’d get into trouble.”

The team added the mascot did not see anything as a drop of water from an air conditioning unit fell into its eyes. 

The post’s title reportedly expressed shock of a woman having leg hair, and included hashtags saying passersby told Ah Tak it was lucky it did not see anything. 

Facebook users were quick to attack the offensive post, with one commenter saying: “Please respect transgenders.”

Another comment criticised the social media team for its lack of gender awareness and for perpetuating gender stereotypes, Coconuts Hong Kong reported. 

The person commented: “Females can also have leg hair, this is a normal biological phenomenon.”

Following the backlash, the post was removed and an apology posted on Facebook saw the team promise to increase its “awareness and sensitivity to gender issues”.

The apology reads: “Ah Tak and the social media team are very sorry about the unease caused by last night’s post about the dripping of water from air conditioning units. 

The post has been deleted. In the future, we will pay more attention and increase our awareness and sensitivity to gender issues.” 

A not-for-profit organisation that supports trans sex workers in Hong Kong posted on Facebook to air its outrage over the incident. 

The post claimed the woman was escaping an anti-pornography campaign. 

It stated: “Regarding this incident, we are glad that the victim landed safely, and we are outraged that there are still sex workers who are forced to risk their lives to climb the wall and escape.

“In the final analysis, it all stems from the extremely frequent anti-pornography actions, which make sex workers live in fear.” 

The organisation highlighted that trans people, if arrested, have to “endure the unkindness of the law enforcement process”. 

Hospitals in the US have recently been targeted with threats for providing healthcare for trans youths. 

At the end of August a false bomb threat forced Boston Children’s Hospital into lockdown.