It's time for Hong Kong to make its own luck

Alice Wu says Hong Kong people expect the government to do its job, regardless of the outcome of the annual Taoist ritual

PUBLISHED : Monday, 18 February, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 18 February, 2013, 1:59pm

Thanks to Heung Yee Kuk chairman Lau Wong-fat, who has most definitely put a damper on the Lunar New Year festivities, we must now brace ourselves for a nasty year ahead. When the going gets tough, we've got to beware of wicked people, too?

No matter how one spins these fortune sticks at the Che Kung Temple, as Lau tried to, this is one of those "rituals" we need to let go of.

It has nothing to do with whether the Taoist ritual is legitimate. There are millions of people in Hong Kong who believe in it and go and shake their own fortune sticks out of bamboo cups.

Never mind the question of to what extent the head of the village chiefs "represents" Hongkongers, why are we even looking to one "representative" to shake this city's fortune year after year? When did this become a "tradition" for us?

I remember when then home affairs secretary Patrick Ho Chi-ping was slammed for picking a bad stick in 2003 - the year severe acute respiratory syndrome swept our city. Since then, no one from the government has taken up the horrible job of being personally responsible for acquiring bad luck for the entire population. And who can blame them? The chance of getting a bad stick is almost one in five.

We should also keep in mind that, in 1997, when a "good" stick was drawn for the city, we got the Asian financial crisis and avian flu - not exactly what most of us would consider "good" luck.

If we consider the 16 years that we have been doing this, the only thing Che Kung, with all due respect, has proved is the law of probability. Out of the 96 possible fortunes to be drawn, 35 are "good", 44 are "mid", and 17 "bad". And, since 1997, Che Kung has "given" this city five good, eight so-so, and three bad sticks. Do the maths.

Of course, things are not looking too good right now. Leung Chun-ying's administration has been having a hard time doing anything. Some of that must be attributed to the unpreparedness of a chief executive who wasn't Beijing's original choice. And the legislature must account for at least half of the grim political outlook. Compounded by the obstructionist-nature of the current Legislative Council politics, we don't need an oracle to tell us that it's going to be a tough year.

And here's the thing. We expect a government to do its job, in good times and bad. And that is why we have been critical with administrations past and present for being shortsighted, for failing to set long-term policies.

So, irrespective of what Che Kung has to say, we don't expect the Inland Revenue Department to stop collecting taxes, or the potholes on the streets to go unattended. We must rethink what this annual "ritual" actually does for the city. It has done little in terms of getting us on the right path. And, today, more than ever, we need far-sightedness and real foresight when it comes to policymaking.

We may have embarked on our journey in a splendid carriage, but we have come home barefoot, probably because we have forgotten how to look beyond the here and now.

Alice Wu is a political consultant and a former associate director of the Asia Pacific Media Network at UCLA