Patrick Ho will not pick a fortune stick on Friday after drawing an omen last year After a week of speculation, the home affairs secretary says he will not draw a fortune stick at Che Kung Temple on Friday after his disastrous effort last year. Patrick Ho Chi-ping said he would stay with his family instead. 'Dr Ho would like to spend more time with his family and therefore will not go to the Che Kung Temple during Lunar New Year,' a spokeswoman for Dr Ho said. It is a tradition in Hong Kong for a government official - usually a senior home affairs official - to select a fortune stick for the people of Hong Kong at the Sha Tin temple. The government says an official will pick a stick this year, but has not said who it will be. Last year Dr Ho, who is a Christian, drew the worst-possible number, 83, from a lot of 100 sticks. It was an omen for a year of 'turbulence and difficulties', which came in the form of Sars, protests and financial difficulties. Dr Ho did not elaborate on why he would not go to the temple, but explained why he went last year. 'It is an old ritual for municipal officials to pray for prosperity and pick a fortune stick. It is what the scholars did. Hong Kong also has this tradition,' he said. 'Following this tradition, I also went to the Che Kung Temple, prayed for prosperity and drew a bamboo fortune stick. To me, I was only following a ritual.' Meanwhile, fung shui master Peter So Man-fung said Dr Ho stood only a '2 to 3 per cent chance' of getting one of the 'worst of the worst sticks' that he picked last year. 'I very much believe he should go [for it] because this year must be better than last.' Edwin Ma Lai-wah, of the Universal Metaphysical Institute, was less optimistic than Mr So and predicted the city's fortunes would also be bad this year. 'I think [Dr Ho] believes he will pick a bad stick because he believes 2004 will not be good,' Mr Ma said. 'Overall, the economy will improve a bit and this will be good for big organisations. But for the workers there will be many difficulties and few vacancies.' Both experts admitted that temple staff sometimes removed the worst sticks before such ceremonies. Mr So said while this was cheating, it was 'good cheating'. In any case, Mr Ma wisely suggested Dr Ho should face reality rather than avoid it.