Anson Chan

Threats have no place in our civilised society

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 09 December, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 09 December, 2007, 12:00am


Related topics

We in Hong Kong pride ourselves on being a society of law and order. We are also open, pluralistic and tolerant. So when a high-profile politician is subjected to criminal intimidation, the act is rightly seen as a challenge to both our legal and civic orders, not just the person targeted.

Less than a week after joining the Legislative Council, Anson Chan Fang On-sang, a former chief secretary, was sent a threatening letter. It contained a razor blade and asked her to commit suicide. The note also carried a threat to 'shoot and behead' fellow pro-democracy lawmakers Martin Lee Chu-ming, Albert Ho Chun-yan and 'Long Hair' Leung Kwok-hung. The motivation for the threats is unclear. There is no evidence it is part of any intimidation campaign. It is more likely the work of some twisted individual. Hopefully, it is an isolated incident. But in the context of recent allegations of assaults and intimidation involving politicians in the run-up to the district council elections and Legco by-election, the latest case raises concerns.

Police Commissioner Tang King-shing yesterday pledged to devote the full resources of the force to investigating the case. His public statement is welcome and he must now see that this is carried through. There is a need to track down the culprit swiftly and bring him or her to justice. A clear message must be sent out that such crimes will not be tolerated and their perpetrators will be punished. This is necessary to ensure that our society remains not only free and fair, but uncontaminated by threats or violence.

Our political debates and campaigns may sometimes be heated and rowdy. Mrs Chan has become a highly emotive figure, provoking strong reactions among both her supporters and opponents. This was something she may not have anticipated when she first announced her intention to run in the Legco by-election. But in a robust and open society, people must be free to express their views, run for public office and not worry about facing threats of violence. Sadly, the threat against Mrs Chan bears an unhappy resemblance to other cases involving public figures. Last month, a jobless man with a history of mental illness was convicted of criminal intimidation of Civic Party lawmaker Alan Leong Kah-kit. Mr Leong, who ran for chief executive, was sent three threatening letters containing a metal knife and plastic fork. There have also been other types of intimidation. In 2004, the Tai Po office walls of The Frontier legislator Emily Lau Wai-hing were smeared with excrement. Last year, Mr Ho was savagely beaten in a Central fast-food restaurant and four men have since been jailed for involvement.

Grave damage would be done to our political system and public life if criminals believe they can intimidate public representatives - whatever their political persuasion - with impunity. Certainly, such problems exist in other countries, where they can take on far more dangerous and even murderous forms. But Hong Kong, despite occasional acts of violence and other unpleasant incidents during rural elections, has managed to maintain an impressive record of civility in electoral politics. This tradition may well come under pressure with debates about political reform expected to become more acrimonious in the run-up to the Legco election next year. But we would do well to remember that being civil, orderly and - above all - lawful are fundamental values of our community. They guarantee the safety and liberty of Hong Kong people.