Lunar New Year

Year of Rooster bright for Hong Kong if city unites, Lunar New Year temple ritual reveals

At annual ceremony, Heung Yee Kuk leader gets auspicious but vague message

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 29 January, 2017, 11:56am
UPDATED : Sunday, 29 January, 2017, 10:17pm

Hongkongers can expect a bright outlook for the Year of the Rooster if they can get united, according to a message received during a Lunar New Year ritual at Che Kung Temple in Sha Tin on Sunday.

But the deity appeared to offer only vague hints on the city’s coming chief executive election. Its words were cryptic: “The message that is being circulated is not wrong.”

These words were on lucky stick number 61 drawn by Heung Yee Kuk chairman Kenneth Lau Ip-keung at the annual ceremony held on the second day of the Lunar New Year.

But what exactly was meant by a message “being circulated” remained something of a mystery.

Tourists join worshippers as crowds come out in force for Lunar New Year

In performing the ritual at the Sha Tin temple, Lau drew a stick for Hong Kong bearing the number 61, with the message corresponding to the stick being “all things are going to be auspicious”.

It was the second time Lau had attended the ritual since inheriting chairmanship of the body that looks after the interests of indigenous New Territories residents. He succeeded his father, Lau Wong-fat, who stepped down as kuk leader in 2015 due to poor health.

Last year, Lau also drew a “good fortune” stick for Hong Kong soon after the Mong Kok riot last year that left some 130 people injured.

The stick is chosen from a container filled with 96 fortune sticks – 35 of which are good, 44 neutral and 17 considered bad.

A year on, Mong Kok riot leaves lessons and scars for Hong Kong police and activists alike

Written as a poem in Chinese, this year’s message on stick number 61, roughly translated, read: “The message that is being circulated is not wrong. There will be good fortune and subsequently good development. Work hard and work toward the goal. There will be good fortune and prosperity.”

Lau said of this year’s message: “Che Kung told us that Hong Kong would have a good year ahead. So long as Hongkongers can get united, there will be good development.”

As to the deity’s words being applied to the city’s leadership race, Lau speculated the message was telling Hong Kong it would see good change “after we have the new chief executive”.

“I can’t over-interpret what Che Kung meant by ‘the message being circulated is not wrong’,” he added.

The kuk invited chief executive hopeful Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee to the ceremony. She interpreted the message as not ruling out her chances of winning.

“I am righteous and I am not afraid of strong competitors,” she said.

Meanwhile, Sha Tin rural committee vice-chairman Lee Che-kee also drew good fortune for Sha Tin district, in the form of stick number 66. Its corresponding message: “all will end well”.

Lee Tin-yan, a fortune-teller operating outside the temple, said the messages meant the city would have good fortune “no matter who will be the new chief executive”.

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Asked which of the four candidates for the top job would win, Lee said wryly: “It depends on your political inclinations.” He declined to try to elaborate Che Kung’s message.

It has long been a Chinese tradition for families to visit temples during Lunar New Year to pray for good fortune.

Luk Leung, 65, said she had come to worship at the Sha Tin temple every year for the past 30 years.

“I pray for health for my family members,” she said. “I also hope Hong Kong will become more peaceful in the coming year.”

Che Kung Temple is dedicated to a military general of the ancient Song dynasty. During Lunar New Year, the temple is packed with worshippers. A windmill is located inside the structure, and turning it clockwise signifies good luck in the year ahead.