One possible explanation for the prevalence of the “villain hitting” ritual in Hong Kong is that it provides an outlet for pent-up resentment.


Underneath the Canal Road Flyover in Causeway Bay, one of the city’s shopping districts, customers pay ritual practitioners to bash an image of their target with a shoe in order to improve their mood. It could be anyone: ex-lovers, hostile coworkers, or a polarizing public figure.

Some people think that the best time to perform the ritual is in March, on the day that the Chinese lunar calendar designates as the “awakening of insects,” or “ging zat” as pronounced in Cantonese.

“Ging zat” occurred on March 6 of this year. After major COVID-19 restrictions were lifted, including the mask mandate, the tradition, which is primarily run by elderly women, attracted hordes of customers.

“I’m hoping to cut out all the gossip around me and wish that the bad people would stay away from me,” said tourist Edison Chan, who traveled from neighboring Guangdong province.

One of the practitioners, Ho Pan-yong, claimed she was in the business to help her clients physically remove negative influences. For her five-minute performance, which consists of lighting an incense offering to gods, whacking the target, and ending with a ritual blessing, she charged $6.4 (HK$50).

Dr. Beatrice Ng-Kessler, a licensed clinical psychologist in Hong Kong and the United Kingdom, believes the ritual, which causes no harm to participants, can give hope to the hopeless.