It has been over a year since the Umbrella Movement, but activists in Hong Kong are still taking every opportunity to voice their concerns. Just last week, two local artists attempted to hide a subversive message in a skyscraper light show. Now people are turning their attention to a new political target: Pikachu. The plump, yellow electric mouse has sparked outrage in the community following Nintendo’s decision to unify Chinese translations for the upcoming game, Pokémon, Sun and Moon.
Previously Pokémon names had varied across the border. Pokémon itself is known as “寵物小精靈” in Hong Kong, meaning “Pet Little Elves,” while it is called “精靈寶可夢” in the mainland, meaning “Elf Pokémon”. Pikachu is translated into Beikaaciu (比卡超) in Hong Kong and Pikaqiu (皮卡丘) in China. The upcoming unification was likely made by Nintendo for marketing purposes, but people in Hong Kong view it as a political decision that disrespects their local culture, Sina reports.
In response, protesters gathered in front of the Japanese Consulate in Hong Kong earlier this week, denouncing Nintendo’s decision as “pro-China.” Speaking with SCMP, Sing Leung, the co-organizer of the rally, emphasized the importance of Pikachu’s Cantonese translation for the local community. “We have been using Beikaaciu for over 20 years… [it] underlines the distinctiveness of our language,” he said.
A gamer who calls himself Mamegoma Joey even went as far as to claim that “Nintendo’s action is the beginning of a cultural genocide.”
Joshua Wong, world-famous student activist and current Secretary-General of Demosistō, lent his voice to the protests, writing on his Facebook page: “I want ‘Beikaaciu,’ not ‘Pikaqiu.’ I hope Nintendo will change the name back.” Another activist, Wong Yeung-tat, founder of the radical localist group Civic Passion, also agrees that Nintendo’s actions reflect a larger and more sinister takeover on the part of mainland China. “Our culture and language is threatened by the Beijing government, Mandarin and simplified Chinese. We’re afraid Cantonese may be disappearing,” he said, according to Quartz.
Because of all the negative attention, Nintendo issued a statement assuring fans that they have never and will never “restrict themselves to a certain country or region.” The company also said that it recognizes the differences between Hong Kong, Taiwan and China and will try to accommodate the areas; however, they will still use the unified translation.
So, at a time when many people in Hong Kong believe that their cultural identity is disappearing, Nintendo seems to have chosen its side. Already, some are calling for a city-wide boycott on the latest Pokémon release. Prepare for trouble, and make it double.
By Sarah Lin
[Images via Guancha / Sina]