- Communist Party mouthpiece claims the unprecedented cancellation is evidence that ‘violent extremists’ are causing the breakdown of society
A Communist Party mouthpiece has seized on the Jockey Club's unprecedented cancellation of a race meeting in Hong Kong this week, claiming it as evidence that "violent extremists" were causing the breakdown of society.
The event at Happy Valley racecourse was called off at the last minute on Wednesday because of the threat of protests against outspoken pro-establishment lawmaker Junius Ho Kwan-yiu, whose horse was due to run. The club said it was concerned about the safety of the public, racing participants and horses.
The move has ignited debate in the city " some blaming the anti-government protesters, others pointing to Beijing " since horse racing is symbolic of the guarantee Hong Kong was given when it returned to Chinese sovereignty in 1997. Late paramount leader Deng Xiaoping famously said "the horses will continue to race and the dancers will continue to sway" to indicate that life in the city would carry on as normal after the handover from Britain.
State newspaper People's Daily used the phrase to make its point in a commentary on Thursday, warning Hongkongers that the months of violent protests were the real threat to their lifestyle.
"When violent disruptions result in horses not being able to race, it is apparent that these violent extremists are the culprit behind the breakdown of Hong Kong's (society)," the commentary read.
"(Anyone) who treasures the lifestyle where 'the horses will continue to race and the dancers will continue to sway' should say no to violence and put that into action by siding with those who protect Hong Kong."
Protests that erupted in early June have plunged the city into its worst political crisis since the handover. They were sparked by an extradition bill " which would have allowed criminal suspects to be sent to the mainland " that the government has since said would be formally withdrawn, and have expanded to calls for democratic reform.
Lawmaker Ho, who co-owns the horse Hong Kong Bet, became a hate figure for the protest movement after he publicly defended an armed mob, dressed in white, that indiscriminately attacked demonstrators and passengers at the Yuen Long MTR station on July 21.
Beijing has ramped up its propaganda campaign against the Hong Kong protests, focusing on violence and the impact of the unrest on the city's economy such as falling tourist numbers and retail sales.
The protests have meanwhile called into question whether the "one country, two systems" formula " under which the city would continue to have its own political, legal, economic and financial systems " is still working. According to Article 5 of the city's mini-constitution, the Basic Law, "the previous capitalist system and way of life shall remain unchanged for 50 years" until 2047.
In a separate article in People's Daily on Friday, Wang Zhenmin, the former legal chief of the central government's liaison office in Hong Kong, also weighed in, calling for all Hongkongers to take responsibility for the city's return to stability and stopping the violence.
"It's time for every citizen to take action and defend their home " no one can stay out of this," Wang wrote.
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