July 6, 1997 in Nation/World

Forecast Stormy For Future Of Hong Kong People Try To Divine The Meaning Behind Relentless Rain Accompanying Handover

Los Angeles Times

The sun set on the British Empire on Monday, and it hasn’t come out since.

From the day of the handover to Chinese rule, Hong Kong has received more than 30 inches of rain - a 100-year high - causing speculation in a week rife with symbolism about what the storms mean for the future of Hong Kong.

People here considered the relentless downpour lucky at first: In Chinese, the word for “rain” sounds like the one for “money.”

But then people began to wonder. With the rain came floods and a landslide at a Buddhist monastery that killed the caretaker. “It’s a sign from the gods,” said To Tak-chung, who lives near the monastery.

Not to worry, said Abel Yeung, a master of “feng shui,” the ancient system of divination. “There’s too much fire in the charts,” Yeung said, “and the water is good for balance.”

Another geomancer, Koon Lung, said: “The rainfall means money will be coming to Hong Kong like a flood. That’s good and bad. In the stock market, as in daily life, when there’s a flood of prosperity, people forget the danger and aren’t prepared for a collapse.”

Although the stock market fell in the first day of trading after reunification, some people were reaping a windfall from the storms. Boat operators and minibus drivers charged desperate commuters five times the normal fare after roads were closed by landslides.

Many of the celebrations marking the return of Hong Kong to Chinese rule were canceled. Of the 10,000 Chinese homing pigeons released to fly to different provinces in China in a “Return to the Motherland” ceremony Tuesday, hundreds are seeking shelter from the rain in apartment eaves here, a Hong Kong animal society reported.

It rained on a $2 million parade organized by pro-China businesses, but the group held part of it anyway. Young majorettes, holding umbrellas instead of batons, marched gamely in a circle at a stadium in Hong Kong Park, smiling and waving at empty stands. Thirty motorized floats adorned with Hong Kong’s pink dolphin mascot and blinking neon lights circled the stadium field like lonely Zambonis on an empty ice rink.

Promoters of an outdoor rock concert lamented that their show was a washout as they prepared refunds Saturday night. The headline act was a band called Wet, Wet, Wet.

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