Kuk chief Lau Wong-fat fortunate not to pick unlucky New Year stick
That's one interpretation after a fortune stick bearing the number 4 was drawn by Heung Yee Kuk chairman Lau Wong-fat in the annual Taoist ritual at Che Kung Temple in Sha Tin.
The rural patriarch breathed a sigh of relief after he drew the stick, which is seen as "average" in fortune terms, even though it is deemed an unlucky number in Chinese as it sounds similar to the word for death.
Last year Lau drew number 95, one of the unluckiest omens, and people were warned to beware of "wicked people" and obstacles in the Year of the Snake.
The literal translation of this year's fortune stick says: "All good fortune relies on heaven. Trouble will not come by itself but with a reason. Being charitable and kind to each other will create good fortune and harmony, and troubles will then disappear."
Fortune-teller Yu Bun said the government and Hongkongers should stay united this year to avoid misfortune. "They should do more 'right and good' things and avoid disorder," Yu said. "This will keep misfortune at bay."
But fung shui master Mak Ling-ling was less optimistic, particularly given the ongoing debate about political reform.
"It's not going to be easy because there is so much disagreement," she said. "[The stick indicates] that everything - including dissatisfaction with government policy - comes with a reason.
"The government should really try to listen to the people and resolve conflict. If it doesn't, we'll see the situation go from bad to worse."
And Chu Ling-ling, a fortune-teller at the temple, said the rumour mill would go into overdrive, fuelled by officials and lawmakers with selfish motives. "It's not society that will fall into disarray, but people's thinking. The reform won't have a chance if everyone is being selfish."
Kuk leader Lau would not be drawn on whether the "misfortune" in the stick was a reference to the looming Occupy Central protest, which could see the main roads of the business district blocked come July if the government fails to come up with what members see is a truly democratic system for the 2017 chief executive election.
"We bring misfortune on ourselves; we shouldn't do things that we ought not to do," he said.
Lau has been doing the honours at the Sha Tin ceremony since 2004. That was a year after then home affairs bureau chief Patrick Ho Chi-ping drew number 83, the worst omen possible, after which the city was hit by the outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome, which claimed the lives of 299 people and ensuing economic woes.