It was a day of ill will in Causeway Bay yesterday, as "devil-beaters" handed out some serious thrashings on the Feast of Excited Insects - one of the best times to curse your enemies, according to Chinese tradition.
The sound of shoes - the weapon of choice - being slapped against paper effigies of the city's least favourite people and the accompanying curses echoed all day under the Canal Road West flyover as people queued to rid themselves of bad luck or wish bad luck on others.
It was Ching Che, or the Feast of Excited Insects - also known as the White Tiger Festival - the day that marks the end of winter and the beginning of spring on the lunar calendar. The day is believed to be the best occasion in the year to visit a "devil-beater" and curse away bad people and bad times.
Some people waiting in line said they had specific enemies in mind - such as their bosses.
But Taiwanese tourist Liu Yen-wen said she came purely for the experience as the ritual was "recommended by a travel guide" she bought in Taiwan.
"I want to beat away the bad people in my life, especially my ex-boyfriends," said the 27-year-old Taipei resident, who had been waiting in line with a friend for more than an hour.
Most days, two or three devil-beaters practise the art under the flyover, but it was packed with about 30 yesterday.
The stall set up by one practitioner, known as Granny Leung, had a queue of more than 50 people. She said she would not help anyone hit top government officials, even though the popularity ratings of some were flagging.
"The officials are just trying to do their jobs," Leung, 79, said. The candles and paper effigies she burned were about 10 per cent more expensive this year, she said, but she kept the charge for her service at HK$50 as "people already have to face inflation in the price of daily necessities".
Meanwhile, as business boomed for devil-beaters under the flyover, three desperate mainland women, aged 51 to 63, were arrested by officials from the Immigration Department for breaching their conditions of stay as they set up stalls in the hope of profiting from the ritual.