My Take

Sorry shouldn’t be the hardest word for Junius Ho

An apology for ‘kill without mercy’ blast at independence advocates would be a lesson for foul-mouthed students who refuse to admit wrongdoing

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 20 September, 2017, 12:38am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 20 September, 2017, 12:38am

Junius Ho Kwan-yiu has become one of the most recognisable faces in the legislature, but not necessarily for the right reason. News stories have the government-friendly lawmaker quoted as saying pro-independence activists should be “killed”. And he wasn’t misquoted.

Ho was doing so well with his campaign in recent weeks to pressure the University of Hong Kong to sack Occupy co-founder and law lecturer Benny Tai Yiu-ting, by building up momentum and a following. Then three words tripped him up: “Kill without mercy.”

Carrie Lam criticises ‘unhealthy and stupid’ calls to kill Hong Kong independence advocates

The occasion was a rally attended by thousands against Tai and those advocating Hong Kong independence on university campuses. Afterwards, Ho was in an agitated state, being surrounded by reporters as he went into a tirade against their being ignorant, stupid and biased.

“If Hong Kong independence advocates are subverting the fate of a country ... why not kill them?” Ho asked. “‘To kill them without mercy’ means we deplore wrongdoers like our enemies.”

You can watch the widely circulated clip on YouTube and his own defence on his online channel. I am absolutely convinced he didn’t mean actually killing or murdering such activists.

To put the Chinese phrase in context, he probably meant they should be charged, jailed, fired from their jobs, kicked out of school, and/or hounded out of town, all done without mercy.

But even if he didn’t mean it literally, the metaphor came across as overly aggressive and violent.

The opposition has been baying for a chance to get back at Ho for going after Tai. Now he has given them an opening. In a statement, 22 opposition lawmakers accused Ho of going “beyond the bottom line of freedom of speech and morals” and breaching the Public Order Ordinance by making a threat.

Charges against Hong Kong Occupy leaders are ‘prosecution overkill’, barrister says

Even Executive Council member Ronny Tong Ka-wah said he might have a case to answer. Secretary for Justice Rimsky Yuen Kwok-keung, however, said such a threat had to be evaluated in context, not just from a few words.

Ho clearly misspoke, as all politicians do at one point or another. To put this behind him quickly, he should publicly apologise. This could be a teachable moment, too. When you make a mistake, own up to it.

Let’s not behave like those foul-mouthed university student activists who not only refused to admit to wrongdoing but doubled down on their outrageous behaviour.