A brand of Hong Kong gin changed its name from Fuk Hing Gin to Fok Hing Gin in the United Kingdom after a complaint that "Fuk Hing Gin" sounds obscene.
How controversy started
Fok Hing Gin is produced by Incognito Group.
The controversy erupted after a member of the public, who is a licensing officer, complaint to the Independent Complaints Panel (ICP) that the "Fuk Hing Gin" name had the potential to cause serious or widespread offence.
The ICP ruled against Incognito Group as it found that the play on words was intentional and the name had the same potential to cause serious or widespread offence as the word "f**k", based on the brand’s marketing materials.
Fok Hing Gin then came under scrutiny from the Portman Group -- a trade body composed of alcoholic beverage producers and brewers in Britain.
What was the original complaint from the public?
The person who made the original complaint said: “The name of the product is clearly intended to shock and be pronounced as an offensive term.”
“Personally I wouldn’t want to see this product on family supermarket shelves or being promoted in an environment where children have access – such as most social media sites.”
What does "Fuk Hing" mean?
Incognito Group said the Fuk Hing Gin name was intended to pay homage to Fuk Hing Lane, a street located in Causeway Bay, Hong Kong.
Fuk Hing Lane is derived from Cantonese, the dialect spoken by a majority of Hongkongers.
The name change from "Fuk" to "Fok" is to differentiate it from the offensive word.
Rule states drink's name cannot cause offence
According to a statement on the Portman Group website, rule 3.3 relates to a rule that a drink’s name, its packaging and any promotional material or activity should not cause serious or widespread offence.
The complaint is the first of this nature to be upheld by the ICP, the portal added.
Commenting on the decision, the chairwoman of the Independent Complaints Panel, Nicola Williams, said: “This is the first time since the addition of the rule on serious or widespread offence that a product’s name and packaging was considered under the rule in terms of offensive language."
“It is not appropriate for marketing materials to purposefully link a name to profanity and no responsible marketing should cause serious or widespread offence.”
Fok Hing Gin responds
In response, and in typical British fashion, Fok Hing Gin’s social media pages mocked the complaint, calling the complainant a "Karen".
The post said: "To the Karen who got offended by our name... We're genuinely sorry."
"As you know, our gin pays special homage to Fuk Hing Lane in Causeway Bay, and not quite what you think it sounds like."
"So no need to get your Primark g-strings twisted."
On the Portman Group website, Incognito Group also said: "We strive to be a brand that celebrates the language, culture and heritage of Hong Kong. We are grateful to our UK consumers who have warmly welcomed us into their gin collection and we are delighted to continue serving the market."
"Through consultation with the Portman Group, we have agreed to update the reverse label to be more descriptive of the details that inspired our brand, and look forward to introducing our UK fans to a little bit of Hong Kong history whilst they enjoy FOK HING GIN during the forthcoming festive season and beyond."
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