SCMP Tuesday, August 8, 2000

Sales of replica weapons at fairs face curbs

NG TZE-WEI and MARTIN WONG


The sale of some replica weapons may be restricted to people aged over 18 under tighter guidelines for displaying the items at comic book fairs.

Hong Kong Comics Federation president Wong Yuk-leong said yesterday new industry guidelines would be ready for the annual Comics Fair, which starts tomorrow at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre.

The call for restrictions was made after young people queued for toy weapons considered dangerous at the Hong Kong Book Fair at the centre last month.

Speaking after the opening ceremony of the 4th Manga Summit 2000 - a world congress on comic books - Mr Wong said there would be clearer exhibition guidelines from the federation. Swords longer than 30cm would not be sold to people under 18, Mr Wong said.

All such weapons must be blunt and swords longer than 15cm cannot be made of metal.

However, Mr Wong admitted the new measures were voluntary and called on the Government to enforce them.

He said one legal alternative was a rating system similar to that for movies.

"Self-regulation has its limits. The most effective way is for the Government to tighten its law in this area," he said. Hong Kong is the world's third largest comics exporter.

The Hong Kong Newspaper Hawker Association said members were under heavy pressure from publishers to help sell promotional items such as toy swords and they should not be blamed. Association member Chu Yuet-han said: "They [publishers] send people to our stands once or twice a week - they even interfere with how we display their products.

"They will stop supplying all products to us if we keep refusing to sell their goods." Association vice-chairman Tang Yup-ming said that hawkers were being unfairly criticised. "There is a trust built between publishers, distributors and us," he said.

"We trust them and they have a responsibility to offer us products which are generally acceptable on moral and safety standards."

He said there were too many give-away toys and it was hard for newspaper sellers to keep track of what was or was not safe.