Berlin Zoo looks to name newborn panda twins Hong and Kong in solidarity with protesters
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After a Berlin newspaper asked readers what to name two newborn pandas at the Berlin Zoo, the most suggested names were “Hong” and “Kong,” to support pro-democracy protests that have broken out in the city for months.

The Tagesspiegel newspaper, which held the naming contest, said the other names readers suggested were also political choices. Some suggested “Pay Pay” and “Coco & Chanel,” The New York Times reported, due to the cost of keeping the pandas. 

The Berlin Zoo does not technically own the pandas, as they are on loan from China. The zoo has payed more than $1 million a year since 2017 to house the animals, according to The New York Times.

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Others suggested Tien Tien and Anmen Anmen in honor of the Tiananmen Square protests.  

Although the zoo said the names will be chosen with help from a Chinese research center, the results of the survey come as German Chancellor Angela Merkel is visiting Beijing to promote trade between the two countries and discuss the trade war currently underway between the U.S. and China.

Protests broke out in Hong Kong in late March after a controversial bill was introduced that would have allowed the citizens of the semi-autonomous city to be extradited to China. Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Carrie Lam formally announced its withdrawal Wednesday.

“The news of panda twins clearly had the potential to be the talk of the town.” Stefan Jacobs, the editor who started the campaign to name the pandas, told The New York Times. “I like asking our Berliner readership these questions — you always get some really funny and really smart answers.” 

Professor Eberhard Sandschneider, who studies Chinese politics at the Free University in Berlin, told The New York Times that the Chinese government would not allow the names “Hong” and “Kong” to be official.

 “The last thing they would accept in Beijing, when the pandas are eventually brought back are the names Hong and Kong,” Sandschneider said.

The twin cups were born Monday to parents Meng Meng and her partner, Jiao Quing. They arrived from China in June of 2017.