On the second day of New Year celebrations it is customary for people to visit Taoist temples to have their future foretold. Incense sticks are burnt and numbers or fortune sticks are drawn, which are then interpreted by fortune-tellers. Even members of the government respect the tradition and the numbers drawn are treated as signs of the city’s future.
Yesterday Legislative Council Member Lau Wong-fat drew the ill-omened stick n. 27 in Hong Kong’s famed Taoist Che Kung temple in Shatin.
Various fortune-tellers saw this as a sign that the city will not be able to protect itself from the global economic crisis; even public unrest is a distinct possibility. They urged however the population to be optimistic because through patience and hard work every difficulty can be overcome.
The last time number 27 was drawn was in 1992, a year of bitter political fights.
Some locals also remember that in 2003 then Home Affairs Secretary Patrick Ho Chi-ping drew number 83, also a very unlucky number. That year the city experienced the SARS outbreak.
To keep bad luck at bay the city put on its traditional night time firework display. Thousands of fireworks were used but one of the barges from which they were launched burst into flames, smoke blanketing the harbour, preventing spectators from seeing the show. Another bad omen.
Still some Hong Kong residents rather stress the virtues of the Year of the Ox, among them patience, loyalty, strength and intelligence, which are much needed qualities if the city wants to overcome the crisis.
In the same vain Hong Kong’s Catholic, Protestant, Confucian, Buddhist, Taoist and Muslim leaders yesterday issued a joint statement. In it they noted that the economic crisis was driving many people to take their own lives, but said that they remained confident in Hong Kongers’ warmth and capacity for solidarity, insisting on the importance of prayer to “bring back prosperity and peace on earth.”