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Ancient villain-hitting ritual thrives in H.K.

HONG KONG (AFP) ― Squatting at a makeshift shrine with joss sticks burning beside her, Granny Leung starts bashing a manlike paper cut-out with a pair of sandals.

“I beat you little people, I’m sending you away!” chants the 76-year-old woman, one of the last practitioners in Hong Kong of the ancient Chinese ritual of “da siu yan,” or “beating the petty little people.”

Granny Leung performs her mysterious incantations in the bustling shopping district of Causeway Bay. And business is booming.

For as little as HK$50 ($6), Leung claims she can curse her customers’ enemies and reverse their bad luck by burning paper offerings and hitting paper figures with shoes.

Believers say the ritual can help to drive away evil spirits in general, or a specific nemesis such as a hated neighbour, a business competitor or a love rival.

Ada Mak, a 50-year-old businesswoman, travels from the outskirts of Hong Kong to see Leung every weekend. She believes the ritual can protect her from negative gossip, lawsuits and financial loss.

“I always feel at ease after I see Granny Leung,” says Mak, adding that she usually asks the old woman to curse a general villain rather than a specific target.

“If you curse someone specifically, you’re only targeting that certain person. Cursing generally can help you beat whoever is trying to harm you, including those that you might not be aware of, in the whole Asia region.

“This is better and this is more effective,” she explains.

Leung says a steady stream of visitors seek her service every day.

“I have been doing this for the past eight years,” she says on a recent Saturday afternoon, sitting on a plastic stool and burning some paper offerings in a red metal canister.

She is among a small group of elderly women who work near the gloomy ”Goose Neck Bridge“ in Causeway Bay. The women congregate there because they say evil spirits linger in dark places.

“I just beat the petty person in general for my clients’ peace of mind. I don’t curse or beat someone specifically. If I do that, there will be no end to this cursing and retaliation,” she says.

Leung, who used to collect cardboard for a living, attributes her powers to a “gift” from God.

Half a dozen people line up and wait patiently for hours for Leung’s services. Among them are four Taiwanese tourists, a foreign domestic helper and an eight-year-old girl.

“My daughter complains she has been bullied by her friends in school, she’s very upset,” says the girl’s mother Mandy Wong.

“It’s our first time here, she asked me to take her here. She said she’ll feel better after the ritual,” Wong adds, as her bespectacled daughter sits on a stool quietly watching Leung.
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