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







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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