Children dressed as ancient gods, celebrities and political leaders were paraded high above crowds on the Hong Kong island of Cheung Chau Tuesday in a traditional celebration of Buddha’s birthday.

Cheung Chau Bun Festival
Cheung Chau Bun Festival. Photo: GovHK.

The annual “Piu Sik” or “Floating Colours” march sees young residents held up on towering metal poles and greeted by cheers and applause as they are carried through the winding streets of the outlying island, which is still predominantly a fishing community.

cheung chau bun festival
In this picture taken on May 12, 2018 a young girl secured to a float takes part in a parade rehearsal ahead of the annual Cheung Chau bun festival in Hong Kong. Photo: Dale de la Rey/AFP.

The parade is part of Cheung Chau’s famous five-day “bun festival” which culminates Tuesday night in a precipitous scramble up a tower made from imitation steamed buns, a favourite snack on the island.

Statues of deities were originally carried through the streets as part of the festival parade. But 70 years ago they were replaced by children, inspired by similar celebrations in the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou.

In the past two decades the march has also evolved into a form of political satire.

Children from a parade group headed by local resident Wong Sing-chau dressed as the city’s finance secretary and democratic lawmakers to reflect current controversies.

A four-year-old girl from Wong’s group posed as the landlady from popular Hong Kong movie “Kung Fu Hustle”, complete with pink pyjamas and hair rollers, in what he said was a nod to the city’s sprawling housing costs.

“I want to speak for the people through satire,” Wong told AFP. “Everyone suffers from high rent and unaffordable housing now.”

A mini-version of city leader Carrie Lam in pink cheongsam and pearls also joined the parade, alongside children dressed as local sports stars including bespectacled Hong Kong snooker player Ng On-yee and champion cyclist Sarah Lee.

The ability to withstand the blazing sun for hours during the parade was one of the requirements for being selected, said Wong.

Temperatures reached 34 degrees Celsius (93 degrees Fahrenheit) on Tuesday, the hottest parade day in 71 years, with children trying to keep cool using fans and umbrellas.

For five-year-old Hayden Kwok, it was a taste of fame.

“Many people will say hello to me. I can see myself on TV,” he told AFP before the event, during which he was dressed as pro-democracy lawmaker Ted Hui.

Hayden’s father Kwok Yu-tin said he wanted his children to inherit tradition through participation.

Cheung Chau Bun Festival. Photo: GovHK.

“Participation gives them a better understanding of what the tradition is and they can feel the atmosphere for themselves,” he said.

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