Duck tops the bill in farewell Hong Kong appearance

HONG KONG - Thousands said farewell Sunday, June 9, to a giant inflatable yellow rubber duck which has captivated Hong Kong, on its final day in the city's harbor before it heads to the United States.

The southern Chinese city has taken the 16.5 meter-tall (54-feet) duck, conceived by Dutch artist Florentijn Hofman, to its heart since it arrived under tow on May 2 to cheering crowds.

Duck mania has gripped the city – and parts of the Chinese mainland – since its arrival, with hundreds of thousands of locals and tourists in Hong Kong flooding the streets near where the giant replica bath toy is moored to catch a glimpse.

Stalls and shops sold replicas and merchandise ranging from T-shirts to 3-dimensional duck tote bags. Restaurants created special duck dishes.

In mainland China, copies of the duck made an appearance in several cities – prompting a rebuke from the communist party newspaper the People's Daily for what it called unoriginal copycat behavior.

The duck was even embroiled in mainland politics, in the run-up to the 24th anniversary on June 4 of the Tiananmen suppression of pro-democracy activists by the army.

Internet searches on the mainland for "yellow duck" were banned after users circulated a mocked-up image of a famous 1989 photo, with tanks replaced by plastic ducks.

In Hong Kong thousands were seen taking their last look Sunday at the genuine duck, wishing it well for the journey ahead and thanking it for bringing joy to the Asian financial hub.

"I hope that it can bring happiness to the people in the different countries it visits," 30 year-old Sam Tsang told AFP.

"The rubber duck has brought us a lot of happiness...I hope it will come back," said 34 year-old teacher Tina Yip.

Shopping mall Harbor City, organisers of the exhibit, said in a statement the duck has "spread joy and positive energy to everyone in town and has received so much love and support from fans and media."

Since 2007 the duck has travelled to 13 different cities in 9 countries ranging from Brazil to Australia.

Hofman said he hopes the duck, which will now travel to the US city of Pittsburgh, will act as a "catalyst" to connect people to public art.

The duck was to be deflated early Monday before being shipped out.

"Missing you already ducky! Must let you go to bring happiness to people around the world!!" Annie Hung wrote on Hofman's Facebook wall. – Rappler.com