Hongkongers are seizing on an ancient ritual to relieve their frustration after months of political upheaval, turning to ‘villain hitting’ to curse troublesome people.
Under a flyover considered an ideal spot for dispelling evil, professional beaters in the form of older women can be paid to hex enemies.
Although a year-round tradition, villain hitting, also known as a petty person beating, is considered more effective on Jing Zhe – the year’s first thunder according to the lunar calendar, which fell this week.
Still recovering from last year’s pro-democracy protests that rocked the financial hub for seven months, Hongkongers on both sides of the political divide are using the popular practice to expel their anger.
“(The government) doesn’t act in the interest of us people and tax-payers. So many people come to curse the government and the corrupted police,” said Ana Hong.
While the rallies and clashes have died down, partly due to exhaustion and arrests but also because of the deadly new coronavirus, tensions remain.
“We want to release some of the hatred vibe inside… we purposely target our Chief Executive, Carrie Lam,” said Mai.
Further along the pavement, Chou Hung Sheng said he has “had enough of the destruction of Hong Kong” which he blames on protesters.
“We’re here today to hit the petty persons, we’ll beat them to the ground,” he said, holding up a picture of a pro-democracy lawmaker.
“We’ll beat them out of Hong Kong. We’ll cleanse their minds and souls with the beating and afterwards we can have good days ahead.”
For between 50 and 500 Hong Kong dollars (US$6-64), the women will wave incense sticks and murmur curses while using an old shoe to beat paper effigies, often with the unfortunate person’s name and birthday written on it, in front of a make-shift shrine.
On Jing Zhe paper tigers, representing bad luck, also appear and are fed pork to satisfy their hunger and prevent quarrelling.
Hong Kong resident Tim, taking part in the ritual for the first time, said: “I do feel that my body and mind feels relaxed afterwards.”