The Hong Kong Jockey Club canceled a race meeting due to be held at Happy Valley Racecourse on Wednesday evening because of what it said was the imminent threat to the safety of racegoers, jockeys and employees, and the welfare of racehorses.
“Our concerns are tied to potential social unrest in the vicinity tonight, the very real threat of a disturbance or possible violence at Happy Valley Racecourse, and uncertainty regarding transportation in and around Happy Valley and Causeway Bay for racegoers, jockeys and employees and horses entering or leaving the racecourse throughout the evening,” a spokesperson for the Jockey Club said in a statement.
“This is a very difficult and most unfortunate decision to make, but public safety is of paramount importance to the club. We hope the racing community and the Hong Kong public will understand our reasons for doing so,” the spokesperson added.
The club said it has conducted a thorough risk assessment of the race meeting and concluded it should be canceled to preserve the security and safety of people and horses.
It said it would provide further information on wagering refunds and racecourse bookings in due course.
The cancellation of the race meeting came after some people went online and called for a rally at Happy Valley Racecourse against Junius Ho Kwan-yiu, a pro-Beijing lawmaker, as his horse – Hong Kong Bet – would be running there. People had gone online said they would follow the dress code of the racecourse – smart casual – and “cheer up” the horse and rider in a special way.
Also, some of Ho’s fans said they would beat up anti-government protesters as they believed there would be several thousand pro-Beijing people at the track.
The Jockey Club scheduled the race involving Ho’s horse as the first on the program, which was supposed to start at 7:15pm on Wednesday.
On Monday, a blogger suggested that the Jockey Club should cancel the race Ho’s horse was entered in as key roads near Happy Valley would probably be congested by protesters before 7:15pm, while riot police may fire tear gas, which would affect visitors and horses at the racecourse.
Ho has been controversial since he was seen shaking hands with gangsters wearing white shirts shortly before they indiscriminately beat up people in the Yuen Long MTR station on July 21. He later said he knew the white-shirt people, but did not know about their plans to attack people.
On July 21, tens of thousands of people marched on Hong Kong Island and thousands went to the central government’s Liaison Office in Sai Wan and defaced the Chinese emblem with black paint. Several hours later, more than a hundred people in white shirts gathered near Yuen Long station and attacked those who came back from the march.
The Hong Kong government said the independent Police Complaints Council would look into the case. However, the IPCC has no power to summon any person, according to its mandate.
Horse-racing has long been seen as one of the major characteristics of Hong Kong’s capitalism and “one country two systems” principle. In 1984, former Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping said Hong Kong people would continue to enjoy horse-racing, dancing – in nightclubs – and their capitalist way of lives after the 1997 handover. Deng also said Hong Kong’s one country two systems would remain unchanged for 50 years after the handover.
However, the extradition bill amendment proposed by the Hong Kong government in June, together with Beijing’s recent accusations against Hong Kong capitalists, had fueled speculation that Beijing was going to change the one country two systems policy and strengthen its interventions in the city.
On September 12, an article published by the microblog of the Communist Party’s Central Political and Legal Affairs Commission criticized Hong Kong tycoon Li Ka-shing – who suggested Beijing give a way out to young protesters – for having caused high property prices and political instability in Hong Kong.
The article also said property developers, not the Hong Kong or central government, should be blamed for the social unrest in the city during the summer.
On September 13, Li Ka-shing said in a statement that he was used to “unwarranted critics.” He said his recent comments about Hong Kong protests were only aimed at calming the situation.
Ronnie Chan Chi-chung, the Hang Lung Properties chairman and a supporter of former Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying and his successor Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, tried to dismiss the blame against Hong Kong’s property developers. He told Guancha.cn that pan-democratic lawmakers and environmentalists should be blamed for the high property prices in Hong Kong as they opposed the government’s plans to redevelop country parks into residential areas.
Chan also said Hong Kong tycoons have no interest in politics, so they should not be blamed for the political upheaval happening in the city.
Since 1997, pan-democratic lawmakers had been a minority in the Legislative Council. The Democratic Party had for years urged the government to buy agricultural land from property developers under the Lands Resumption Ordinance. But the government, together with the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong (DAB), a pro-Beijing political party, rejected the idea.
On September 11, the DAB changed its stance and urged the Hong Kong government to buy agricultural land from property developers. The following day, the People’s Daily and Xinhua News Agency published commentaries to support DAB’s suggestions.