(p. A4) BERLIN — When a Berlin newspaper asked its readers to help name two pandas born at the Berlin zoo last week, the contest quickly became weighted with political symbolism and risked the ire of Beijing, which has long treated the animals as surrogate envoys to friendly countries.
The most-suggested names by readers, according to the Tagesspiegel newspaper, were Hong and Kong, an apparent nod to solidarity with the pro-democracy protests that have been roiling Hong Kong, a former British colony that was returned to China in 1997.
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“The political symbolism is there, and it’s clear that the government and also the leadership of the Berlin Zoo would not allow it,” Prof. Eberhard Sandschneider, who studies Chinese politics at the Free University in Berlin, said of the panda contest on Friday.
“The last thing they would accept in Beijing, when the pandas are eventually brought back,” he added, “are the names Hong and Kong.”
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(Note: the online version of the story has the date Sept. 6, 2019, and has the title “At Berlin Zoo, a Clamor to Name Twin Pandas ‘Hong’ and ‘Kong’.”)