Hong Kong's holy bun fight back

Hong Kong, China - An ancient Taoist "bun-scrambling" ritual has been performed in Hong Kong for the first time since it was banned 27 years ago.

Huge bamboo towers were built and covered in sweet buns, which are blessed by monks, for the annual event.

Traditionally, people would climb the towers and fight over the buns.

But after the towers collapsed in 1978 and injured more than 100 people, the practice was banned. This year, the event passed off safely.

The authorities built stronger, metal towers, imposed tight restrictions on who could climb, and limited the numbers taking part.

At midnight a dozen climbers clambered up towers 22m (72ft) high, trying to grab as many holy buns as possible in three minutes.

Sanitised version

The festival on Cheung Chau is supposed to ease the spirits of the people who died when plague struck the island in the 19th Century.

Tradition dictates that for three days, the whole island goes vegetarian.

Then, at the culmination of the festival, there is the bun scramble where points are awarded for each confection, depending on where it was collected from.

This year's top point-scorer, Kwok Ka-ming, said: "I am so happy that the bun- scrambling event could be relaunched. I wish it could be held every year."

Many local people seemed happy to see the event back, and the government has said it could become a tourist attraction.

But the BBC's Chris Hogg in Hong Kong says not everyone is happy with the new format.

Some residents complained it was now too tightly controlled, with safety harnesses introduced for the first time, and the climbers qualifying from earlier rounds, rather than coming from the ranks of local fishermen, as was traditional.

Some said the metal bun towers looked more like rockets.

They warned that the new sanitised version might not impress the island's evil spirits.