In Hong Kong, which is currently gripped in a standoff with the government of Mainland China, a local gelateria is selling a curiously flavoured dessert: tear gas flavoured ice cream. The quirky, creamy treat is aimed to provide support to Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement, which is aiming to restart its protests, which naturally stalled during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The owner of the store chose to speak anonymously in order to avoid repercussions from the government in Beijing, stating: “We would like to make a flavor that reminds people that they still have to persist in the protest movement and don’t lose their passion.’’ The protests in Hong Kong erupted over proposed legislation that would have allowed criminal suspects to be extradited to mainland China to face charges. While the bills were withdrawn, demonstrations continued over concerns Beijing is eroding the civil liberties granted to the former British colony when it was returned to Chinese rule in 1997.
The main ingredient of the ice cream is black peppercorns to recreate the pungent, peppery rounds fired by pro-Beijing police on the streets of Hong Kong during months of violent demonstrations in 2019. In his attempts to replicate the taste of tear gas, the owner experimented with various different ingredients like wasabi sauce and mustard. But he said that black pepper was the most effective way to mimic tear gas with its throat-irritating effects.
Customers who tried the ice cream, which was selling up to 30 scoops a day before the coronavirus pandemic, said, “It tastes like tear gas. It feels difficult to breathe at first, and it’s really pungent and irritating. It makes me want to drink a lot of water immediately. I think it’s a flashback that reminds me of how painful I felt in the movement.’’
Throughout the height of the protests, it’s estimated that over 16,000 tear gas rounds were fired in mostly densely populated areas. Despite the current pandemic stalling the protests, it’s expected that they will make a return during the summer. This expectation has led to an increased presence of pro-Beijing police and the government persevering with legislation that would make it a crime to mock the Chinese national anthem.