A HK$100 note (right) issued by Bank of China (Hong Kong), which some say looks like hell money (left). Photo: BOCHK
A HK$100 note (right) issued by Bank of China (Hong Kong), which some say looks like hell money (left). Photo: BOCHK

The Hong Kong Monetary Authority has been heavily criticized over the launch of a series of bank notes, whose designs have been widely discussed online.

Despite creative and unorthodox designs that feature the city’s renowned yum cha culture and beautiful butterflies, critics made fun of the two designs by Bank of China (Hong Kong), one of three local note-issuing banks.

People online compared the Cantonese opera singer on the HK$100 notes to a ghost, with some adding that the design looked like the paper notes used in a traditional funerals and issued by the Hell Bank.

The hashtag of #Shame and #Touchwood have been the two most common expressions that went viral right after the launch of the new notes on Tuesday.

A HK$1,000 note issued by the Bank of China (Hong Kong). Photo: BOCHK

To make matters worse, the design on the HK$500 note, a hexagonal rock formation of the famous Global Geopark, also by the Bank of China (Hong Kong), was compared to the Hollywood movie 2012, which depicted the earth having an expiry date.

A HK$500 note issued by Bank of China (Hong Kong) and a poster of the Hollywood movie 2012. Photo: BOCHK

Many said the note made it look like the city was sinking.

The negative comments frustrated the Hong Kong banking regulator’s efforts to issue new bank notes using the latest printing technology, which made it more difficult for counterfeiters.

The three note-issuing banks – HSBC, Standard Chartered and Bank of China (Hong Kong) – played on five daily themes that signified Hong Kong in their notes, beginning with yum cha HK$20 notes, butterflies (HK$50), Cantonese opera (HK$100), Unesco’s Global Geopark (HK$500) and last but not least, the international financial centre (HK$1,000).

For the first time, the designs on one side of each new bill were a portrait instead of a horizontal layout. These bills, which have enhanced watermarks and concealed denominations, will be available in the fourth quarter.

To be fair, not all the new notes were criticized. Standard Chartered designed five notes that – when put together – form a silhouette of Lion Rock, a local landmark and a symbol of the city’s spirit.

It’s not easy keeping everyone happy in Hong Kong.