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









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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