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Editorial:Violence in elections is unacceptable

【明報專訊】THE District Council elections are approaching. Junius Ho, a Legislative Councillor, was attacked when canvassing at his roadside booth. He sustained a knife injury in the left side of the chest. The incident has renewed concern over violence in elections and whether the District Council elections can be held smoothly. Hong Kong is a society underpinned by the rule of law. Any kind of violence in elections is unacceptable regardless of political stance or background.

Junius Ho is a candidate of the Lok Tsui constituency under the Tuen Mun District Council. Also running in the constituency are Cary Lo, who is from the Democratic Party, and Chiang Ching-man, who declares no political allegiance.

Over the past month or so, there have been multiple attacks on district councillors and candidates. These attacks varied in severity. In one case, a person was engaged in quarrels and jostling with people of a different political view. A candidate was hit with a hard object in the head when handing out leaflets. One was ambushed on the street, with blood covering his face.

Violence in elections has multiple levels. Some violent incidents happen in a moment of rashness when, for example, a person bites another because of political differences. Some attacks are planned and premeditated. Some violent acts in the election cycle are aimed at harassment and insults. They include the hurling of bodily waste. Some are aimed at intimidation. In some cases, the attackers even try to cause injuries or deaths deliberately. A democratic election is in nature an opportunity for each voter to use their sacred vote to express their opinion in a peaceful manner. Any kind of violence in elections is inherently in violation of this principle. As for whether the election has to be postponed or cancelled, it depends on the specific situation. One must not act rashly.

Politics could induce insanity. Even in countries like the UK and the US which have a long tradition of democracy, serious violent incidents targeting politicians happen from time to time. In 2011 Gabby Giffords, a member of the House of Representatives from the Democratic Party, was attacked at a public event. She was shot in the head and nearly lost her life. In June 2016 before the Brexit referendum, Jo Cox, a member of Parliament as well as a remainer, was stabbed and shot to death when holding a surgery. The incumbent Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro was stabbed when campaigning in the presidential election last year. However, even though such violent political incidents happened, the British authorities did not choose to postpone the referendum. Neither did Brazil give up holding the presidential election. The crux of the matter is that these incidents of political violence were isolated cases rather than systemic, organised attacks. Furthermore, there was not large-scale bloodshed involving citizens of different views.

Let's look back at the situation in Hong Kong. The anti-amendment movement has gone on for five months. The social atmosphere is tense, and violence remains incessant. This will definitely affect the elections, making it difficult for them to be as just and fair as before. However, one should not talk about delaying the elections lightly unless no other solutions can be found. It is impossible to prevent every incident of political violence. The key is to try our best to safeguard an electoral atmosphere that is free from fear.

For voters, the best way to punish a politician is to use their votes. They need not and should not resort to violence. An election reflects the preference of voters better than any opinion poll. All sides should cherish this opportunity and must not let political violence ruin the upcoming District Council elections.

明報社評 2019.11.07:選舉暴力不能接受 區選不應輕言押後

區議會選舉在即,立法會議員何君堯在屯門「擺街站」期間遇襲,左胸中刀受傷。事件再度令人關注選舉暴力情况,以及區選能否順利舉行。香港是法治社會,任何選舉暴力都不能接受,不管當事人有何政治立場或背景。

何君堯參選屯門區議會樂翠選區,同區參選者還有民主黨盧俊宇,以及沒有申報政治聯繫的蔣靖雯。

過去個多月,先後有多名區議員和參選者受襲,嚴重程度不一,有人與不同政見者爭執推撞,有參選人派發單張時遭硬物扑頭,有人甚至在街頭遭伏擊圍毆,頭破血流。

選舉暴力有很多層次,有些是一時衝動的鹵莽行為,諸如因為政見不合動粗咬人,有些則是有計劃有預謀;一些選舉暴力行為的目的是滋擾侮辱,諸如擲糞淋尿,有些則是存心恐嚇,甚至蓄意傷人害命。民主選舉投票,本質是讓選民運用手上神聖一票,以和平方式表達意見,任何選舉暴力必然有違此原則,至於是否有需要押後或取消選舉,則要視乎具體情况,絕對不能草率行事。

政治可以令人瘋狂,即使在英美這樣的老牌民主國家,偶爾也會發生針對從政者的嚴重暴力案件。2011年,美國民主黨女眾議員吉福茲在公眾活動中遇襲,頭部中槍幾乎喪命;2016年6月英國脫歐公投前,留歐派國會女議員考克斯更在接觸選民時,遭刀刺槍擊身亡。現任巴西總統博索納羅去年競選時,亦曾因刀刺受傷。然而即使發生了嚴重政治暴力事件,英國亦沒有選擇押後公投,巴西亦沒有放棄大選,關鍵在於這些政治暴力案件屬於個別事件,而非有系統、有組織的傷人襲擊,也沒有出現不同政見市民大規模廝殺流血。

回看刻下香港情况,反修例風暴持續5個月,社會氣氛緊繃,暴力事件不息,對選舉一定有所影響,論公平公正程度難如往常,然而若非迫不得已,不應輕言押後取消。個別政治暴力事件防不勝防,關鍵在於盡量維護「免於恐懼」的整體選舉氛圍。

選民要懲罰政客,最佳方法就是善用手上一票,毋須也不應訴諸暴力。一場選舉比起任何民意調查,更能清晰反映民心所向。各方應當珍惜眼前機會,勿讓政治暴力毁了今次區議會選舉。

■Glossary

canvass:to ask sb to support a particular person, political party, etc, especially by going around an area and talking to people

premeditated:planned in advance

surgery:a time when people can meet their Member of Parliament to ask questions and get help

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