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HSBC's rainbow lion statues spark row in Hong Kong
A toddler looks at a lion painted in rainbow stripes displayed outside HSBC's main office in Hong Kong on December 6, 2016. A pair of lions painted in rainbow stripes displayed outside HSBC's main office in Hong Kong have been slammed by anti-gay groups as activists in the city call for more progress on equal rights. Anthony WALLACE / AFP.

by Elaine Yu

HONG KONG (AFP).- A pair of rainbow-painted lions displayed in front of one of Hong Kong's most iconic buildings has been slammed as "disgusting" by anti-gay campaigners who condemned the show of support for the city's LGBT community.

The multi-coloured art piece has been placed in front of the HSBC's landmark building in the business district, beside two famous bronze lions that the bank first installed in 1935.

An important symbol of power in Chinese culture, the bank's bronze guardians have come to represent prosperity in Hong Kong.

The rainbow installation, painted by local artist Michael Lam for HSBC's "Celebrate Pride, Celebrate Unity" campaign, drew the ire of conservatives, with some groups launching a petition to have the artwork removed.

The petition said that the rainbow colours, symbolic of the LGBT community, are emasculating and deprive "all the strength and stamina of the original lions".

It said the statues are "causing annoyance to the feelings of many Hong Kong people as well as trampling on the existing family values".

The petition has been organised by Roger Wong, an outspoken figure against gay rights and the father of Joshua Wong, who famously led Hong Kong's pro-democracy Umbrella Movement in 2014.

The LGBT-friendly lions will be on show throughout December, following Hong Kong's annual pride march last month that saw thousands of gay rights supporters hit the streets of the international financial hub.

"Having a workforce that reflects the diversity of our millions of customers in Hong Kong and which draws on a wide range of perspectives makes us better able to serve the whole community," HSBC spokesman Adam Harper told AFP.

Despite the emergence of some LGBT-supporting initiatives in Hong Kong, conservative groups regularly hit back at the promotion of what they claim is an anti-family agenda.

The government has also been criticised by rights campaigners for a lack of anti-discrimination laws and little progress towards marriage equality.

HSBC's Facebook page drew thousands of "likes" and many comments expressing admiration for its campaign, but some also expressed anger.

"Have you seen what effects a small group of gays would have on our society's systems and the next generation?... If HSBC continues to support the rainbow movement I'm definitely going to cancel my account," said one comment.

However, passers-by were overwhelmingly in favour of the statues, with some stopping to take photos.

"A bank needs to be more inclusive rather than just cater to one group of people," said Brian Yip, who works in finance.

© 1994-2016 Agence France-Presse

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