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Photos: Hong Kong’s ‘villain hitting’ ritual draws crowds

People who hold a grudge may have found a way to release it in the Hong Kong ritual of “slapping thugs.”

To relieve themselves of a bad mood, customers paid ritual practitioners who worked under the Canal Road Flyover in Causeway Bay, one of the city’s shopping districts, and watched them beat up an image of their target with a shoe.

It could be anyone – rival lovers and unfriendly colleagues, or terrible bosses and obnoxious public figures.

The ritual is especially popular in March, as some people believe the best day to perform it falls on “went sat,” as pronounced in Cantonese, a day on the Chinese lunar calendar that literally means “the awakening of insects.”

This year, “went sat” fell on March 6. Run primarily by older women, the tradition attracted crowds of customers after major COVID-19 restrictions, including the mask mandate, were lifted.

“I hope to banish all the gossip around me and would like the bad people to stay away from me,” said tourist Edison Chan, who was from neighboring Guangdong province.

The ritual, which does not physically hurt anyone, could help bring hope to those who are distressed, said Dr Beatrice Ng-Kessler, a registered clinical psychologist in Hong Kong and the United Kingdom.