Warning: Violence on election day benefits no one in Hong Kong
Huang Jiyuan
Peace must reign during the district council election in Hong Kong, November 24, 2019. /Reuters Photo

Peace must reign during the district council election in Hong Kong, November 24, 2019. /Reuters Photo

Editor's Note: Huang Jiyuan is an opinion editor with CGTN Digital. The article reflects the author's opinions, and not necessarily the views of CGTN.

Peace must reign during the district council election in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) on Sunday. 

For the first time in the history of Hong Kong's district council election, riot police will be guarding the polling booths. This fact underscores the seriousness of Hong Kong authorities in ensuring a smooth and fair vote. Carrie Lam, chief executive of the HKSAR, promised that the government will do "utmost" to ensure the election is conducted as scheduled. 

Anyone should think twice before approaching the election with malignant intentions, because the consequences of a cancelled election due to violence could do lasting harm to the city and no one can bear the responsibility for it.

Sixth months of protests, violence, and disruption in the city have brought it to the brink. Official figures show that the profits of the four pillar industries of Hong Kong – financial services, tourism, trading and logistics, and professional and producer services – have dropped by 300 billion Hong Kong dollars (38.3 billion U.S. dollars). The possibility of experiencing a negative growth rate is also not remote. It would take a long time to recover from this economic slump.

But more importantly, the society is being divided. Students versus teachers, the young versus the old, and the identity of Hong Kong versus the Chinese mainland have all become points of conflict during the protest. This election, where 4.13 million out of more than seven million Hong Kong residents are registered to vote, is to be the event where dissatisfaction and disagreements could have the chance to be translated into solid policy actions to push the city forward.

Violence on election day would upend the prospect of economic and political recovery. Unlike during the protests, election is where protesters and non-protesters will be gathered together. For those who refuse to make their political preference public, election is the only time when their voices would be heard and be effective in making a social change. The anonymity of the vote guarantees their safety from retribution and boosts their confidence in the system.

Hong Kong has been mired in violence and chaos for six months. The district council election must be held in peace. /Reuters Photo

Hong Kong has been mired in violence and chaos for six months. The district council election must be held in peace. /Reuters Photo

Violence erases this safety and confidence, especially when people already feel uneasy about making their political stance clear. There is no shortage of reports on how offices of pro-government candidates have been vandalized in the past few weeks. Politicians have been attacked in public, including Junius Ho, who was stabbed in the chest during a campaign event. Video footage of a man being set on fire for voicing divergent views in front of the protesters is also a setback for those who are already afraid of expressing their political opinions.

If violence breaks out at polling stations and rioters decide to engage in physical confrontation with the police on election day, it would create a long-lasting memory on the minds of Hong Kong residents. They wouldn't be able to know when it is safe to speak their minds, since danger could come from the people around. This, in turn, would create a self-censorship where political ideas could only be safely expressed if they are in line with the those who use violence. Those with fear of expressing opposing views would refuse to participate in this and future elections for their safety.

This kind of political intimidation and silence would be devastating for the governance of Hong Kong. Hong Kong authorities respect people's right to peacefully protest without fear of political retribution as a way to express their political and policy ideas. Hong Kong has been able to enjoy its stability and prosperity for the past decades because of free interaction between the authorities and residents. If rioters start to harm people on election day and suppress their chance to contribute to the governance of their own city, then the city would lose the very essence that makes it successful.

It is reported by Global Times that 74 petrol bombs have already been found near a polling station in Mong Kok in central Hong Kong. Those who intended to use them and those who are still contemplating about acting in similar fashion need to know that the consequence of their actions would be too heavy to bear.

Be warned, peace must reign on election day.

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