Racing

HK races called off amid protest threat

Horse part-owned by pro-China lawmaker among the runners

Wednesday night's Hong Kong race meeting was cancelled after pro-democracy protesters said they would target the Happy Valley racecourse, where a horse part-owned by a pro-China lawmaker was due to run.

The government also said fireworks to mark Chinese National Day on Oct 1 had been called off.

The Hong Kong Jockey Club said it had been "monitoring the situation" closely in Chinese-ruled Hong Kong, which has been rocked by more than three months of sometimes violent protests.

"(We have) conducted a thorough risk assessment of the race meeting tonight and concluded that it should be cancelled in order to preserve the security and safety of people and horses," the club said in a statement, without specifically mentioning the protests.

A horse called Hong Kong Bet that had been due to run in the evening programme is part-owned by lawmaker Junius Ho, who has taken a firm line on the protesters, calling them "black-shirted thugs".

Ho said he was "astonished" by the cancellation.

"A lot of people (deeply regret) such a decision being taken and are worried about the negative impact that (it) may bring to Hong Kong racing and Hong Kong as an international city as well as a leader in the horse-racing world," he said in a statement. "I fully endorse those worries."

Ho has called for Hong Kong "clean-up day" tomorrow, targeting anti-government graffiti in 18 districts.

"Man up! Sign Up! Clean Up!" he says on his campaign flier.

Happy Valley, nestled in the hills of Hong Kong island, is a tightly populated, up-market residential area next to the Causeway Bay shopping district.

There has been a horse-racing track there since just after British colonial rule began in the mid-1800s. - REUTERS

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