Judicial Remedies for Feng Shui Disruption in Hong Kong

As skyscrapers are built throughout Hong Kong, many try to adhere to the practice of feng shui.  Feng shui is the practice of positioning objects in a way to ensure harmony, health and fortune.  This increase in development has disturbed the feng shui of many towns and villages.  As a result, many villages have commenced actions against the government, seeking various remedies. These remedies often come in the form of money for restructuring and landscaping, or for rituals of spiritual cleansing.

Citizens are skeptical both of the amounts of money that the government is doling out for feng shui remedies and of what the money is being spent on.  Additionally, citizens are growing skeptical about the practice of feng shui and doubt that those seeking money are strict adherents of the practice. The Hong Kong government stated that it has paid $1.2 million to villages for remedies since 2000.

One of the first oppositions of a feng shui claim was by local villagers of the village of Kap Lung.  Their chief had asserted claims for compensation connected to the construction of a high speed railroad nearby.  The villagers opposed the chief’s claim because they thought he was simply trying to get an infrastructure improvement to a footbridge that would have resulted in his own financial gain.  This case made others question if those seeking compensation were simply trying to make money off the government.

This practice of reimbursement has existed for over a century, since the British ruled Hong Kong.  The British created the system as a way to adapt to the feng shui beliefs of the villagers.  While it remains unclear as to how many people adhere to feng shui principles, the popularity of newspaper columns and television shows on the topic seem to indicate that there exist a great number of people who do practice feng shui in some capacity.

Should the Hong Kong government continue to pay villages that claim damages to their local feng shui?  Should the practice of feng shui be continued as the counties continues to modernize or is it simply a way of the past?  If the policy of reimbursing feng shui damages remain, how could the government better ensure that they are not being taken advantage of by non adherent whom are simply interested in a capital gain?

3 comments

  1. Feng Shui started out in the beginning as a set of good building practices for people in various areas of China. For example, one of the rules in Feng Shui is to never place a door on the north side of a building. This makes sense, of course, for people in Northern China, because the North side of the building faces the Gobi Desert and if a door is placed on the North side of the building, then the sand will get in.

    However, what started as really good ideas for building was eventually turned into a bunch of really arbitrary rules which, largely, is being used now to bilk people out of money. Companies will throw millions of dollars on real estate and construction just to accommodate the very expensive advice of geomancers. It’s really mostly a scam nowadays.

  2. The role of law in any society is to reflect social mores. If China maintains legal avenues for people to sue over violations of feng shui principles, then I would say that they must be important in Chinese society and should be allowed to persist accordingly. Besides, there’s no practical way of ensuring that every legal case filed is brought for pure motives. Rules of professional conduct and torts like abuse of process can try to mandate as much, but the law is not perfectly judicious. There is always room for human error. For example, there’s the proof beyond a reasonable doubt standard in criminal cases, but it hasn’t been able to absolutely bar wrongful convictions. The standard itself (like most law) is apt, but it cannot be made categorically infallible, unfortunately. In other words, I think we have to admit that fallibility is not totally escapable in the law, no matter what its subject or underlying policy.

  3. If feng shui is a deeply rooted practice in Chinese culture, then it would be unjust not to provide remedies to the villages that have been damaged. Although it is important, perhaps necessary, for Hong Kong to modernize and strive to become a global powerhouse, it should not be able to excessively do so in violation of the people’s deeply rooted traditions. The government must provide some sort of recourse. As far as those who are bringing suit solely for monetary gain, the justice system must be trusted enough to not provide them damages. Although there can never be a guarantee as to a person’s true motives, not allowing any remedy for fen shui damages is not the answer. The legal system cannot separate itself from justice and disallow any claim becuase of certain individuals with alterior motives.

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