Hong Kong's Beijing-backed leader, Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying encouraged citizens of the city, who experienced several tumultuous months of pro-democracy protests, to be like "gentle and mild" sheep in the upcoming year.
"Sheep are widely seen to be mild and gentle animals living peacefully in groups," Leung said in his Lunar New Year message to welcome in the Year of the Sheep.
"Last year was no easy ride for Hong Kong. Our society was rife with differences and conflicts. In the coming year, I hope that all people in Hong Kong will take inspiration from the sheep's character and pull together in an accommodating manner to work for Hong Kong's future," he said in the video message while flanked by his wife and smiling children.
In the fall of 2014, thousands of Hong Kong pro-democracy protesters occupied streets across Hong Kong in what came to be known as the umbrella movement.
The protesters, mostly students, demanded full democracy, calling on Leung to step down after Beijing in August ruled out free elections for Hong Kong's next leader in 2017.
However, Leung staunchly resisted the demonstrations, and instead condoned the use of excessive police force, including tear gas and clubbing. While the street camps were cleared in December, many demonstrators left banners bearing the message, "We'll be back."
CNN reports that the city's leader is often referred to as "The Wolf" by critics-a nickname which is well-known across Hong Kong. In 2013, a protester reportedly hurled an IKEA stuffed wolf at Leung, causing the toy to sell out in stores across the city.
Alan Leong, a legislator who participated in the demonstrations, told the AP that he was horrified by Leung's New Year wish in light of his recent actions.
"Does he know he has been called a wolf by Hong Kong people?" he said. "So is it the wolf speaking, wanting Hong Kong people to behave like sheep, so as to be slaughtered and eaten up by him?
"I think it's crazy, and he is sick."
Mr. Leong told the New York Times that he expects "another mobilization of Hong Kong people" when the government presents the local legislature with Beijing's proposal for electoral change, which he said he and other pro-democracy legislators would vote against.
"He should try his utmost to try to mend the very polarized divide in Hong Kong, and I don't think he's doing that," Mr. Leong said of the chief executive. "I really think this man is out of his mind by suggesting we should behave like sheep."