Waxwork Chinese leaders get democratic makeover in Hong Kong

Police stand beside a cutout made by pro-democracy protesters featuring a photo of Chinese President Xi Jinping holding a yellow umbrella, at Mongkok shopping district in Hong Kong on Oct 26, 2014. Waxworks of Chinese Communist Party luminaries,
Police stand beside a cutout made by pro-democracy protesters featuring a photo of Chinese President Xi Jinping holding a yellow umbrella, at Mongkok shopping district in Hong Kong on Oct 26, 2014. Waxworks of Chinese Communist Party luminaries, including Chairman Mao and President Xi, have become unlikely poster-boys for Hong Kong's democracy movement, after a visitor to Madame Tussauds pinned symbolic yellow ribbons to their jackets. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

HONG KONG (AFP) - Waxworks of Chinese Communist Party luminaries, including Chairman Mao and President Xi Jinping, have become unlikely poster-boys for Hong Kong's democracy movement, after a visitor to Madame Tussauds pinned symbolic yellow ribbons to their jackets.

Photos circulating on social media show a smiling replica of Xi sporting a yellow ribbon on his lapel late Wednesday at Hong Kong's branch of the popular wax museum.

A waxy Mao Zedong, the founding father of communist China, and reformist former leader Deng Xiaoping were also snapped happily wearing the ribbons attached to their grey communist-era "Mao suits".

The yellow ribbon has become a symbol of the pro-democracy street protests that have paralysed parts of Hong Kong for more than a month, with many supporters using it as their profile picture on Facebook and Twitter.

Madame Tussauds said it encouraged visitors to interact with its celebrity mannequins, but stressed it did not take a political stance on the ongoing protests.

"The visitor just put the ribbon on the wax figure, took a picture and then the visitor took off the ribbon immediately," a spokesman for the attraction told AFP, adding the process had been repeated with each of the waxworks in turn.

"While we encourage interaction with wax figures onsite, the recent actions were those of a guest and do not reflect the position or views of Madame Tussauds Hong Kong," the museum added in a statement.

Madame Tussauds, which has over 100 figures in its Hong Kong museum, did not reveal the identity of the person who turned the pre-eminent communist leaders into supporters of the pro-democracy movement.

The photos were a hit on social media, with some users describing the photos as "awesome".

Along with Mao, Xi and Deng, former Chinese premiers Wen Jiabao and Zhou Enlai also got the yellow ribbon treatment.

Hong Kong's protesters are demanding that China backs down on its insistence that candidates running for leader of the semi-autonomous city in 2017 must be vetted by a loyalist committee. Democracy activists say this will result in the election of a pro-Beijing stooge.

Beijing has refused to cave in over the protests.