Beware the dragon's forked tongue
Peter So and Tanna Chong
Hongkongers should expect gossip galore in the Year of the Dragon and be careful to differentiate right from wrong - if the traditional Taoist fortune ceremony is any guide.
Lau Wong-fat, chairman of the Heung Yee Kuk rural body, yesterday drew a fortune stick numbered 29, which is considered 'average' rather than particularly lucky or unlucky, at Che Kung Temple in Tai Wa, Sha Tin.
Its literal meaning is: 'It might be difficult to differentiate a god from an evil ghost, but there will be little danger of the sky and earth not knowing how to make it out eventually.'
A fung shui master said the stick implied Hong Kong would encounter a lot of falsehood and gossip.
Asked if the fortune referred to the chief executive election on March 25, Lau replied: 'It seems so.'
'The public should recognise what is right and wrong, black and white,' Lau said, but he would not be drawn on which candidate - Henry Tang Ying-yen, Leung Chun-ying or Albert Ho Chun-yan - would be a 'god' and which the 'evil ghost'.
Lau took on the task of drawing the stick in 2004, a year after the home affairs chief at the time, Dr Patrick Ho Chi-ping, drew 83, the worst possible number. That year saw economic turmoil and the outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome.
Last year Lau drew stick number 11, associated with an ancient poem implying a strategic predicament and the coming of a new leader.
James Lee Shing-chak, one of the city's best-known fung shui masters, said this year's stick indicated there would be a lot of gossip and that people might struggle to tell fact from fiction, but offered no clue on who will succeed Donald Tsang Yam-kuen.
Tang would not be drawn on the fortune-telling. 'I don't know how to interpret the stick's meaning.'
He continued his campaign in Hung Hom, where he met a retired domestic helper who had served his family for five decades. The woman, known as 'Sister Mei', said Tang was generous and kind. 'He did not get mad with the maids even though he was a young master,' she said.
Leung, back from a short break with his family in Britain, said he preferred to talk about people's livelihoods than speculate on the interpretation of the fortune stick.
Meanwhile, a group of young people protesting against rural leaders claiming to speak for Hong Kong also drew 'average' fortune sticks.