“Since January, we have been fighting the pandemic for seven months. This pandemic has dealt a severe blow to our economy, “he said.” Some people have said that if I do not postpone the election, they could take legal action … while others have said if you postpone it, you should explain it clearly “.
Lam said he was invoking the Colonial-era Emergency Regulation Ordinance to push for elections from September 6 this year to September 5 next year and his decision had the full support of the central government.
Under the city’s mini-constitution, the Basic Law, each Legco term could only last four years, the CEO noted, and that would raise legal issues.
To resolve them, he had sent an emergency report to the Beijing Council of State, informing him that the central government would ask China̵7;s top legislature, the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, to decide on the issues. pending legal and constitutional requirements.
This would mark the second time in a year that Lam invoked these powers, first introduced almost a century ago under British colonial rule. He used the law last October to ban wearing masks of protesters hiding their identities during anti-government demonstrations.
Lam cited examples of other governments postponing elections, saying more than 60 countries had done so since July 15 and only 49 countries had advanced their scheduled polls.
“In Britain, an emergency law was passed to postpone elections in May of one year,” he added, adding that the Australian elections were also postponed for twelve months.
“If we continue with our elections, millions of voters will visit polling stations on the same day. The risk of infection would be very high.”
Lam noted that despite preventive measures, new coronavirus infections since July had increased by 1,852, an increase of 140 percent compared to the first six months.
“We are especially concerned about the situation of nursing homes … and there is no sign that the situation in the city is improving yet,” he said. “The situation has been more critical since January 2020, as the virus will continue to spread in the city and the risk of large-scale community outbreaks occurring every day.”
On the logistical challenge in the midst of a public health crisis, Lam said the government should recruit 34,000 election officials and that a large number of people would take to the streets on polling day.
He noted that registered voters living on the border of mainland China could not cast their ballots through quarantine measures that would prevent travel.
He added social distancing measures that also hindered the continuation of the campaign for the candidates.
His announcement came after the two-week nomination period for candidates closed at 5pm and a dozen hopeful opponents were disqualified on Thursday.
The decision raises a number of legal issues, including whether council sessions could be extended and for how long and whether the disqualified will still act as legislators.
In a statement released earlier, 22 pan-democratic lawmakers, four of whom were banned from seeking another term, said legislative council elections were a key element of Hong Kong’s constitutional foundation.
“According to the Legco Ordinance, ballot boxes can only be postponed for 14 days,” the statement said. “To postpone it [beyond that] is to provoke a constitutional crisis in the city. “
“After a year of democratic movement, Legco is urgently undergoing a baptism of public opinion, which is the root of the city government … The government and society as a whole must do everything possible to ensure that general elections can be held as planned. “
The official Xinhua news agency reported Wednesday that the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress would meet again in Beijing from August 8 to 11 to discuss a series of laws. No Hong Kong-related issue has yet been included and the opposition also accused the government of trying to deprive residents of their right to vote.
“Hong Kong’s constitutional and legal frameworks would not allow for any kind of manipulation,” the statement stated. “It was also suggested that the National People’s Congress intervene … this would mean the total collapse of our constitutional order.”
The camp noted that more than 60 countries or regions around the world had successfully held elections during the pandemic, either planned or with a brief delay. Hong Kong authorities should learn from his examples, he said.
The postponement came a day after the opposition camp suffered an impressive blow with 12 members, including veteran and moderate politicians, with their candidacy invalidated by returning officials, while the government warned that they could be disqualified.
At least 22 opposition hopes are still waiting to return the officers’ verdicts to their requests.
On Thursday, in letters to aspirants, election officials cited the city’s new national security law and previous calls by foreign governments to sanction Beijing and Hong Kong as reasons to prevent four current lawmakers – Alvin Yeung Ngok of the Civic Party . , Dennis Kwok and Kwok Ka-ki, as well as accounting lawmaker Kenneth Leung.
Other disqualified opposition figures included Joshua Wong Chi-fung, Ventus Lau Wing-hong, Gwyneth Ho Kwai-lam and Alvin Cheng Kam-mun, along with District Councilors Cheng Tat-hung, Lester Shum, Tiffany Yuen Ka- wai i Fergus Leung Fong -wai.
Officials who testified cited similar reasons for their invalidation and their previous vote to vote on the government budget and other bills, should the bloc win an unprecedented majority in the legislature.
The government warned that more candidates could face the same fate. But a source familiar with the matter said no further disqualifications will be announced on Friday. “But the return offices have the power to do so after the application period closes on Friday,” the source said.
Additional reports by Lilian Cheng