French “spiderman” Alain Robert this morning scaled the 283-meter Cheung Kong Center to unfurl a banner depicting a handshake between Hong Kong and mainland China and an adorable smiling sun — in a move that appeared to be equal parts anodyne call for political unity and zany stunt promoting an “unconventional” rum brand.
Videos of the stunt —including some from inside the building — were quick to appear on social media.
— Mark Agnew (@AdventureAgnew) August 16, 2019
But while the sheer skill involved in the feat was impressive, the “Can’t we all just get along?” message was enough to put off some people, including the prominent dissident artist Badiucao.
“This flag shows how ignorant and stupid for some westerns [sic] understanding of Hong Kong and China,” he said in a tweet. “Stop normalising Beijing ok? Do u really want shake hands with butchers and dictators.”
This flag shows how ignorant and stupid for some westerns understanding of Hong Kong and China.
stop normalising Beijing ok? Do u really want shake hands with butchers and dictators.
'Spiderman' scales Hong Kong skyscraper, unfurls 'peace' banner.
— 巴丢草 Badiucao (@badiucao) August 16, 2019
What has so far escaped mention, however, is that Robert was wearing climbing gear emblazoned with the logo of Dead Man’s Fingers, a British spiced rum brand.
Robert also appears to have undertaken a similar stunt on behalf of the brand at London’s Heron Tower last November.
The brand prides itself on its “unconventional” character — indeed, there’s an entire section of their website under the heading “Unconventional” — but is not known for its trenchant observations on thorny political questions.
As of press time, the brand had not responded to a request for comment seeking details on their involvement with the stunt, as well as their stance on the current unrest in Hong Kong, which has seen hundreds of thousands march in protest of Beijing’s perceived erosion of the territory’s civil liberties.
Prior to the ascent Robert put out a statement saying the message of his climb was to make “an urgent appeal for peace and consultation between Hong Kong people and their government”.
“Perhaps what I do can lower the temperature and maybe raise a smile. That’s my hope anyway,” Robert said in his statement.
Today’s ascent was the third time Robert has climbed the building.
The Cheung Kong Center is owned by mega-tycoon Li Ka-Shing, who today took out ads in local newspapers featuring calls for unity, such as “Love Hong Kong, love China, love yourself.”
Several police were on the scene at today’s stunt, and a large inflatable cushion was deployed in case Robert fell. However, when contacted by Coconuts HK this morning, a police representative said they were unaware of the stunt, let alone whether Robert would face any legal action.
Additional reporting by AFP.