The morning I arrived in Hong Kong four weeks ago, a 30-year-old man greeted a local district councillor with a bouquet and a grin. Then, asking if they could pose for a selfie together, he pulled out a knife and buried it just below the politician’s heart. The victim, Junius Ho, one of the most prominent pro-Beijing candidates to be thrashed in last month’s elections, had already seen his office vandalized and his parents’ grave desecrated after he’d been caught on camera laughing and shaking hands with men believed to have violently attacked the city’s ubiquitous pro-democracy demonstrators. When those in favor of greater democracy almost unimaginably swept roughly 80 percent of the 452 seats contested on November 24, including Ho’s, the nonfatal attack promised to be the least of his worries.

Though the weekend of the voting was calm, such “disturbances” (to use Beijing’s preferred euphemism) have been everywhere in Hong Kong for the past half-year. Only three days before the attack on Ho, a man had been seen biting off part of the ear of a pro-democracy politician. And as policemen are deployed to try to contain such violence, break-ins among the luxury homes on top of the Peak, the city’s most exclusive district, have been fast increasing.