Burning paper replicas of everything a loved one could want in his afterlife is an enduring tradition in Asia. That’s includes offering paper replicas of clothes, bags, smartphone or even a car. These items are not used by living people but used to commemorate ancestors.
In Vietnamese, these objects are called “Hang my ” and remain very popular especially among affluent urban classes, on the occasion of the celebration of the lunar mid-year that just ended.
However, last month the clothing luxury brand Gucci did not hear it that way in Hong Kong and send a warning letter to Hong Kong’s funeral shops accusing them of infringing its trademark right.
According to Gucci warning message, selling paper replicas, having Gucci-as logos, was a violation of their trademark. This action created a series of criticisms from shops and customers, who considered that Gucci was offending a harmless custom. “It’s the first time I’ve encountered this problem,” said Tai Wai-man, a funeral shop owner for over 30 years.
After one week, Gucci apologized with the utmost respect and regards to the funeral context: “We regret any misunderstandings that may have been caused and sincerely apologize to anyone we may have offended through our action,”. They also promised not to have any follow-up legal action. Most of the stores receiving the warning letter have agreed to take those products off their shelves. On the other hand, many other shop owners said “We’re still going to sell. If one of us gets in trouble, we’ll all be in trouble together.”
Did David won the battle against Goliath?
Despite the luxurious shopping malls, Hong Kong suffers from a terrible income inequality. Over 20% of Hong Kongese are living in poverty in cage homes, rooftops, working conditions and legal protection for workers are nothing like in the West.
Burning replicas wishing our relatives could enjoy in their afterlife great things they could not afford during their lifetime is a kind attention but does it resolve social inequality? Should Lux be a purveyor of inequality and injustice?
The producing paper has a cost: Toxic pollution of seas and rivers, air pollution, energy consumption, water use, deforestation. All these factors destabilize the world’s fragile balance, and create social gender inequality. Maybe instead being preoccupied with Gucci’s actions should we ask ourselves the right questions, and see what can be done to help those suffering from poverty when they are still alive?