HONG KONG —
People across China are celebrating the Year of the Horse with family gatherings, fireworks and presents. But in one Hong Kong park, the Lunar New Year also is a time for political satire.
In addition to the traditional foods and flowers for sale, the six-day festival in Victoria Park is a light-hearted political battle ground for opposing ideas.
A pro-government party sells an affordable package with a digital radio, two packets of rice noodles and a can of seafood.
Meanwhile, a pro-democracy group is there to remind everyone of its feelings for the government, selling rolls of toilet paper printed with the face of Hong Kong Chief Executive C.Y. Leung.
Even traditional artists are getting nudged in a political direction this year. Writer Chan Kin Man says most of the political requests come from young people.
"Many young students come to ask me to write pro-democracy couplets, which I didn't expected at first, while many older people prefer traditional ones, such as good health wishes. Today, there are more young people."
One visitor, who identified herself only as Ms. Leung, told VOA's Cantonese service that she likes the political offerings.
"I actually want to see what new ideas they (the political parties) have, because this New Year Fair is a convenient place to meet many people, to see them soft-selling their different political platforms, quite effectively, actually," she said.
But if politics sour the mood for others, a group of college students is standing by with a cure: smiles.
The group from Hong Kong Shue Yan University sell objects and toys painted with smiles of their own design. They say they want the people of Hong Kong to be able to smile in the new year, to release pressure from their tense, daily lives.
The heightened political overtones come as pro-democracy supporters are threatening mass demonstrations this year in Hong Kong to demand election reforms.