HONG KONG: TIME Asia expert Oscar Chiang reports that the threat of violence on the night of the Hong Kong handover must be taken very seriously as the turf battles between free-speech and pro-China advocates intensify. A leading Hong Kong Democrat warned Wednesday that a planned free-speech protest in Victoria Park on the night of the handover could turn violent if China resorts to such ''dirty tricks'' as instead granting the permit for the space to the suddenly-interested pro-China Hong Kong Federation of Women. Hong Kong Democrats, says Chiang, see that they are about to be unceremoniously eliminated from Hong Kong politics. China is using the handover event to stage a swearing-in ceremony for the provisional legislature, all of whose members have been handpicked by the communist party in Beijing. Bolstered by Madeleine Albright's symbolic decision not to attend, Lee and the Democrats are already planning a handover-eve rally in Statue Square that would take place less than 100 meters from another event staged by a pro-China group, whether or not they receive permission. ''We are always peaceful but if they use dirty tricks they put us in a corner," said Lee. "We might have to react.''