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Brussels won’t let Manneken Pis celebrate Beijing’s takeover of Hong Kong

Brussels will not allow its famous Manneken Pis statuette to be used in a celebration of the 25th anniversary of Beijing’s takeover of Hong Kong on Friday, as had originally been planned to the horror of democracy activists.

The original plan was for the urinating bronze fountain of a young boy to be kitted out in a “Hong Kong costume” with “greetings at noon” to mark the 1997 handover of the former British colony to mainland China. This no longer appears on the city agenda after the idea of allowing such a commemoration triggered outrage because of Beijing’s brutal crackdown against Hong Kong’s democracy movement.

After municipal officials assessed whether to allow Friday’s ceremony to go ahead, it was decided that the Manneken Pis would instead wear a costume typical of Brussel’s Ommegang renaissance-era pageant, according to the head of the cabinet of Delphine Houba, Brussels’ alderwoman in charge of culture and tourism for the city.

The Ommegang is a traditional Brussels celebration, taking place this year on Friday, which commemorates the arrival of Holy Roman Emperor Charles V in Brussels in 1549.

“The Manneken Pis will wear the Ommegang costume tomorrow as is the tradition in connection with this major event for Brussels,” the head of cabinet said in written statements.

Asked what triggered the last-minute change in outfit, the head of cabinet said that the college of aldermen had validated the calendar for the statuette’s upcoming outfits, adding that July 1 “is an important date in the cultural calendar of the City of Brussels with the Ommegang recognized (…) to the intangible heritage of the UNESCO.”

Press offices for other Brussels’ aldermen had no immediate comment on what happened to the China plan, or even how it came about in the first place.

The Chinese Embassy in Brussels and Hong Kong’s economic and trade office in Brussels, did not respond when contacted for comment.

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