Wed, Jan 19, 2000 - Page 1 News List

Hello pandemonium as Kitty craze hits Singapore

DPA , SINGAPORE

The frenzy for Hello Kitty and Dear Daniel dolls that has left patrons in Singapore injured from shattered glass and bloodied noses in short-tempered crowds is prompting concern all the way to the halls of parliament.

McDonald's is selling sets of its limited edition feline-faced stuffed toys in traditional wedding costumes on Thursdays until Feb. 3.

To try to control the mad rush, McDonald's has enlisted a private security force, slapped a cap on the number of dolls each customer can purchase and stopped sales at five locations where traffic congestion has been particularly heavy.

Numerous arguments have erupted in the lines of customers waiting for the dolls. One dispute resulted in a fist fight between a doctor and the family of a truck driver.

Minister for Home Affairs Wong Kan-sang has assured members of parliament that although "rage" is not a specific offense in the city-state's laws, provisions against the consequences of such misbehavior such as voluntarily causing injury or rioting "are adequate," with penalties ranging from fines to imprisonment and caning.

Michael Ong, the 23-year-owner of a store specializing in collectibles, said he has gone to a McDonald's franchise each Thursday by 3am and has been paying five runners to go to other outlets.

Orders for the Hello Kitty dolls are streaming in from Hello Kitty enthusiasts in Taiwan and the US.

Newspaper pundits say people of all ages are apparently drawn to the cuddly feline.

Hello Kitty fans say the dolls are very "cute" and remind them of a time when today's more sophisticated electronic diversions did not exist, a time when a teddy bear was an Asian child's most cherished toy.

Psychiatrist Kkok Lee-peng said the Hello Kitty toys evoke warm memories of childhood and that there is nothing wrong with such nostalgia.

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