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Editorial:When horse racing does not carry on as usual

【明報專訊】THE TURMOIL in Hong Kong has "knocked people and their horses off their feet", as it were. Spectaculars such as the Hong Kong Tennis Open have not been able to open at scheduled times, while the Hong Kong Jockey Club (HKJC) also cancelled the races yesterday (September 18) out of consideration for safety. The fireworks display on October 1 has also been called off.

The way many protesters see it, the attacks by white-clad people at Yuen Long Station on July 21 were associated with Junius Ho, a lawmaker. Though Ho has stated that he does not agree with "an eye for an eye" and has denied that he was involved in the orchestration of the attacks, controversy has not died down. Recently Ho has called on people to participate in a "Clean up Hong Kong" action over the weekend, asking his supporters to clear the Lennon walls and graffiti by protesters in different districts. By doing so he has created another political tinderbox. There was a call for netizens to go to Happy Valley Racecourse last night to "support" Ho's horse in the race. Having evaluated the safety risks, the HKJC deemed that it was possible for unforeseeable chaos to occur at Happy Valley and its surroundings and for the racecourse to be affected. It also believed that scenes of violence could erupt and there was uncertainty concerning transportation arrangements in the location. To ensure the safety of people and the horses, it decided to cancel the races last night.

While in the past the HKJC cancelled horse races occasionally because of reasons such as typhoons, last night's cancellation for security reasons was unprecedented — it had never happened since the handover. More than thirty years ago, the notion that "the horse racing and dancing will go on as usual" was used specifically as a metaphor for the implementation of "One country, two systems" in Hong Kong, which promised that the capitalist way of life would remain unchanged for fifty years. It can thus be seen that the notion that "the horse racing will go on" carries a great symbolic meaning. That the HKJC has cancelled the races because of the situation in society has led to all sorts of discussion. Some believe that the action of the HKJC, taken to give priority to security, was understandable. But some horse racing fans have expressed scepticism, arguing that there was no reason why the HKJC should have cancelled all the races last night for the sake of a single horse.

As the storm over the amendment continues to simmer and violence continues to escalate, things are destined to develop in a way that everything is possible as long as it is conceivable. If protesters in their thousands had indeed heeded the call and taken aim at Junius Ho's horse, the situation could have been uncontrollable. People and the horses could have been knocked off their feet anytime. The HKJC could not have taken such a risk. But it has to be said that the HKJC's action was indeed no different from throwing the baby out with the bathwater. The imminent crisis might have been resolved, but the HKJC will be faced with a similar dilemma when Ho's horse is entered in a race next time.

Junius Ho is known for his inflammatory words. Two years ago, he declared that "supporters of the Hong Kong independent movement" should be killed without leniency on a public occasion. He was criticised for inciting violence. After the July 21 attacks, opposition to Ho has grown in volume. A petition signed by people in the racing industry and racing pundits calls for the termination of Ho's membership in the HKJC. From a racing fan's point of view, to make sure that the races yesterday would take place smoothly, the HKJC could have acted in the most direct way by refusing to let Ho's horse enter the race or persuading Ho to withdraw. But the HKJC has its own established practice and policies. It cannot set a bad precedent by barring the horse of a horse owner from a race because of political pressure or the threat of violence.

明報社評 2019.09.19:馬不能照跑 盛事紛攬炒

香港動盪「人仰馬翻」,繼香港網球公開賽等盛事無法如期舉行,馬會亦出於安全考慮,取消昨晚跑馬地賽馬,十一煙花匯演亦告取消。

「7.21」元朗白衣人襲擊事件,不少示威者認為與立法會議員何君堯有關。雖然何君堯表示不認同以暴易暴行為,否認有份策劃襲擊,然而爭議並未因此平息。早前何君堯號召本周末舉行「清潔香港」行動,呼籲支持者清理各區連儂牆和示威塗鴉,再度點起政治火頭,有網民發起昨晚到跑馬地馬場,「支持」何君堯愛駒出賽。馬會經風險評估,認為昨晚跑馬地一帶或會發生不可預計的混亂情况,馬場可能遭受干擾,甚至出現暴力場面,區內交通安排存在不確定因素,為了確保「人馬安全」,決定取消昨晚賽事。

以往馬會偶有因為颱風襲港等原因取消賽馬,然而像今次般以安全為由取消賽馬,實是回歸以來所未見。30多年前,「馬照跑、舞照跳」成了香港回歸實行「一國兩制」的具體比喻,香港保持資本主義生活方式50年不變,「馬照跑」象徵意義之大,可見一斑,今次馬會因為社會局勢取消賽馬,各界議論紛紛,有意見認為馬會以安全為優先考慮,做法可以理解,惟亦有馬迷質疑,馬會沒理由因為一匹馬而取消全晚賽事。

隨着反修例風暴持續發酵,暴力不斷升級,事態發展只有想不到、沒有辦不到,倘若有數以千計激進示威者響應呼籲,衝着何君堯愛駒而來,場面確有可能失控,隨時人仰馬翻,馬會不能冒此安全風險。不過話說回來,馬會今次做法確是「斬腳趾避沙蟲」,即使化解了眼前危機,下次何君堯愛駒再度出賽,馬會仍有可能面對相同處境。

何君堯向以言論惹火見稱,兩年前他在公開場合聲言要對「港獨」分子「殺無赦」,被斥煽動暴力;「7.21」元朗襲擊後,不滿何君堯的聲音高漲,賽馬及評馬界有人聯署,要求取消何君堯的馬會會員會籍。從馬迷角度看,為了讓昨晚賽事順利舉行,馬會拒絕或「勸退」何君堯愛駒出賽,也許是最直截了當,可是馬會亦有規章政策,不能因為政治壓力甚或暴力脅逼,便做壞規矩禁止某個馬主的馬出賽。

■Glossary

knock/lift etc sb off their feet:to make someone fall over

tinderbox:a dangerous and uncontrolled situation in which violence is likely to happen

inflammatory:intended to cause very strong feelings of anger

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