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Protest symbol or plush toy? IKEA wolf makes brief Hong Kong comeback

By Euan McKirdy, for CNN
January 31, 2014 -- Updated 0531 GMT (1331 HKT)
Lufsig the wolf has become a cuddly symbol of disillusionment with Hong Kong's leader
Lufsig the wolf has become a cuddly symbol of disillusionment with Hong Kong's leader
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • IKEA's hit toy sold out within hours of restock in Hong Kong
  • Cuddly wolf toy became a tongue-in-cheek symbol of protest against Chief Executive last year
  • Lufsig fans express their disappointment; more stock expected in March

Hong Kong (CNN) -- Hong Kongers are howling in disappointment as their potent -- if unlikely -- symbol of protest once again goes missing from the city's shelves.

IKEA's wolf-like Lufsig doll, which played a cameo in local politics last year, quickly sold out upon its return to the city.

Residents snapped up the stuffed toy in December after one was hurled by a protestor at C.Y. Leung, Hong Kong's leader, who is nicknamed "wolf" for his political cunning.

Modeled after the antagonist of the Little Red Riding Hood fairy tale, Lufsig went on sale at Hong Kong's three IKEA stores on Wednesday but quickly sold out as throngs of customers lined up early to get their hands on the toy, which has been out of stock since its rise to prominence in December.

The South China Morning Post reported that 2,000 of the toys were made available in the Swedish furniture giant's Causeway Bay, Sha Tin and Kowloon Bay stores at a cost of HK$99.9 ($13) each.

IKEA staff handed out tickets to eager customers before the stores opened for business. Each ticket allowed the purchase of a single doll, although reports of some enterprising customers rejoining the back of the line quickly spread.

The toys have become a popular symbol of protest against the chief executive, who is criticized in the city as having too close ties to Beijing, and for putting off his responsibilities to secure universal suffrage for the city's voters by 2017.

There is also an element of bawdy humor associated with the toy, whose former Chinese name is a near-homonym of a crude sexual term in Cantonese. Ikea has since updated the name.

The toy's popularity remains undiminished, and some of the 50,000 followers of the Lufsig Facebook group page expressed their disappointment with IKEA.

"It's just improper planning, you can't even order one online so people who have to work everyday can't get one," said one disgruntled Lufsig fan.

However, despite the immediate demand for the toy, the resell market hasn't caught fire, with dolls selling on the Hong Kong portal of eBay for around HK$140-$150 ($18-19), a modest 40-50% markup.

IKEA said that Lufsig would next be in stock around the end of March, although it remains to be seen if he will retain his political potency in the meantime.

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