The social media team behind a Hong Kong government mascot has apologized for its lack of gender sensitivity after the backlash over a joke it made about the near-escape of a transgender woman from the police.
Videos of the woman wearing a sexy nightgown, climbing out of a window and landing safely on a busy street in Tsim Sha Tsui after making a dangerous jump went viral last week.
The woman, who police identifed as a 30-year-old Thai man based on her passport data, is believed to have been trying to escape capture for prostitution charges and was eventually arrested for violating her conditions of stay.
Shortly after the videos went viral, the team for Ah Tak, a dinosaur mascot commissioned by the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department to be the city’s “Keep Clean Ambassador”, posted caricatures of the incident to social media.
“Ai! Today, I looked up for a while and now I’ve to wash my eyes…” they wrote in the post’s caption.
They also referenced how a few men helped the woman make her way down to the ground, adding that led Ah Tak to look up.
“Who knew I’d get into trouble,” they wrote.
Attempting to newsjack the viral videos, the team behind Ah Tak said the mascot did not see anything as a drop of water from an air conditioning unit fell into its eyes. They added that having a leaky a/c unit was an offense with a penalty of HK$10,000 (US$1,274).
The post also has a title expressing shock that a pretty woman has leg hair and included hashtags saying passersby told Ah Tak it was lucky it did not see anything.
The post on Ah Tak’s Facebook page was quickly met with criticism.
“Please respect transgenders,” said a commenter.
Another criticized the social media team for a lack of gender awareness and for perpetuating gender stereotypes.
“Females can also have leg hair. This is a normal biological phenomenon,” wrote one netizen.
But there were also Facebook users who commented on how others were being too sensitive.
In response, the social media team for Ah Tak quickly took down the post and issued an apology on Facebook on Saturday, one day after the original entry was posted.
“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,” the post reads.
Separately, Midnight Blue, an NGO that supports male and transgender sex workers in Hong Kong, also issued a post lamenting how media reports and discussions on the internet on the incident were filled with transphobic remarks.
“Regarding this incident, we are glad that the victim landed safely, but we are outraged that there are still sex workers who are forced to risk their lives to climb the wall and escape,” it said.
It is not the first time the city has been called out for its lack of sensitivity toward transgender individuals.
Just last year, lingerie and clothing store 6IXTY8IGHT issued an apology to a transgender woman after a salesperson at one of the chain’s outlets denied letting her use the changing rooms when she was shopping.