Tear gas is among the new flavors of a Hong Kong ice cream parlor, with black peppercorns as the main ingredient, to recall the clashes in the months of pro-democracy protests in 2019.
“You know how to tear gas. It seems difficult to breathe at first, and it is really poignant and irritating. It makes me want to drink a lot of water right away, ”says a client, Anita Wong, who was a victim of tear gas in one of the many protests that paralyzed the semi-autonomous city. "It is a flashback (remembrance) that reminds me of the pain I felt and that I must not forget", he added.
The flavor created is a sign of support for the pro-democracy movement, which seeks to regain its momentum even during the covid-19 pandemic, explains the store owner, who speaks only on condition that he is not identified to avoid repercussions from the pro government -Beijing.
"We wanted to create a flavor that reminds people that it is necessary to persist in the protest movement and not lose passion," he said.
For that, he experimented with different ingredients, including wasabi and mustard, in an effort to reproduce the taste of tear gas. The black pepper, he stresses, was the one that came closest to tear gas and its irritating effects on the throat.
“We roasted and ground whole black peppercorns that we transformed into gelato, in the Italian style. It is a little spicy, but we emphasize its aftertaste, which is a feeling of irritation in the throat. It is like breathing tear gas “, sums up the owner, 31 years old.
More than 16,000 cans of tear gas were fired during the protests, according to Hong Kong officials, many in densely populated districts, where the narrow streets are filled with small restaurants and apartment blocks.
The protests started with the proposed legislation that would allow suspected criminals to be extradited to mainland China to be accused, meanwhile abandoned, but has evolved into demands for democratic reforms.
Protests took place regularly in 2019, with protesters claiming that Beijing was undermining the civil liberties granted to the former British colony when it returned to Chinese sovereignty in 1997.
The ice cream parlor also offers a space for people to express opinions about the movement, including the use of adhesive notes equal to those that appeared scattered throughout the territory at the height of the demonstrations and which dates back to the other major protests of 2014.
With each serving costing around 4.6 euros, the tear gas ice cream has been a hit with customers: the ice cream owner says that before social distancing regulations due to covid-19 he sold between 20 and 30 drinks a day with that flavor.
The demonstrations almost disappeared with the covid-19 pandemic, but more recent episodes, with arrests, demonstrations in shopping centers and clashes in the local parliament, suggest that greater actions may arise during the summer, if the outbreak of the new coronavirus is controlled. .
Before the covid-19 pandemic "cooled down" the protests, there were four demands: the release of the detained protesters, that the actions of the protests were not identified as riots, an independent investigation into police violence and, finally, the resignation of the head of government and the consequent election by universal suffrage for this office and for the Legislative Council, the Hong Kong parliament.
Now, security forces are seeking to prevent large concentrations and the Government is moving ahead with legislation to criminalize possible abuses of the Chinese national anthem.