Photos: Timothy Chui
The strong argument against fung shui wins the day for St Antonius
The team from St Antonius Girls' College came out swinging against Buddhist Tai Kwong Middle School to win the fifth round of the Nesta-SCMP Inter-School Debating Competition earlier this week.
Both sides had solid arguments but the girls from St Antonius - who took the affirmative view that fung shui is a waste of time and money - came out on top because of stronger overall content, good back-up for their arguments and slightly better team work, according to adjudicator Tom Derbyshire, a native English teacher at Stewards Pooi Kei College, where the debate was held on Tuesday.
St Antonius' second speaker Nova Lau Yun-yung received the best speaker award for her powerful delivery. Nova pointed out how fung shui varied wildly from master to master and that one of its most high-profile adherents, late tycoon Nina Wang Kung Yu-sum, got nothing from it.
St Antonius' Nova Lau Yun-yung won best speaker
Nova also included a personal anecdote about her family having to pay HK$8,000 to have her and her siblings' names changed for 'fung shui purposes', and that it had yet to have any bearing on her life.
Although the point played well with the audience, Derbyshire warned the debaters of the dangers of making examples out of themselves, recommending they find wider examples.
'It might be a little dangerous. I don't know your family and I can't rebut that,' he said, adding it could also invite personal attacks.
Both teams had solid arguments, with the affirmative team taking the line that the practice was a drain on families and the legal system
First speaker for St Antonius, Heidi Lai Hiu-tung, said the cost of fung shui paraphernalia, such as crystals and compasses, could run into tens of thousands of dollars and there wasn't any scientific proof that the rituals could improve anyone's luck and fortune.
To hammer her point home, Heidi also cited fung shui oddities on mywebastrologer.com, such as the need for a yellow kitchen, a grey bathroom and bans on cooking in the kitchen, food in the refrigerator and family photos in the bedroom.
Quoting English author Gretchen Rubin, she said: 'Dabbling in fung shui seems like another source of anxiety and putting a fish-tank opposite her bed seems more like a distraction from taking real steps that could bring fortunate change.'
Team anchor Gigi Cheon Man-che added practitioners were mostly con-men. She rebutted the negative team's point that even major corporations took fung shui into consideration, saying it did not result in them making a profit every month.
All the same, Buddhist Tai Kwong Middle School made a strong argument that fung shui should not be judged solely on the basis of self-styled master Tony Chan Chun-chuen, who is claiming Wang's billions.
Buddhist Tai Kwong Middle School practised for a month
The team's first speaker Yannis Yeung Oi-yan stressed the practice was an inseparable part of Chinese identity, with its concept of balance and harmony, while second speaker Iris Ho Chung-sze said it was wrong to judge an entire belief system on one unreliable representative, such as Chan.
While both sides made some solid arguments, Derbyshire said Buddhist Tai Kwong Middle School's lack of reinforcing examples gave the win to St Antonius.
'The summary speakers can give new examples but not new points to make the case stronger,' he added.
Lily Wang, native English teacher and Buddhist Tai Kwong Middle School debating coach, described her team as hard workers.
'They've been practising for about a month, every lunch hour individually and the last three days as a team. If they want to do something they really put a lot of effort into it.'
Meanwhile, Barbara Robson, native English teacher and coach of St Antonius Girls' College, said planning was key to her team's success.
'I think they've shown real dedication to the planning and development of their arguments. Between debates, they're becoming more independent in developing arguments and anticipating rebuttals.'
She said she thought they were becoming increasingly confident. 'They're realising the importance of delivery ... It's much more challenging in a second language to actually leave the page and start communicating.'