A boy and a woman wearing face masks were seen walking down a street on July 27, 2020 in Hong Kong, China.
Vernon Yuen | NurPhoto | Getty Images
Hong Kong Legislative Council elections will be postponed for a year, city leader Carrie Lam announced on Friday amid a new expansion of coronavirus cases.
Voting was initially scheduled for Sept. 6, but will now take place on Sept. 5, 2021, according to Lam. He said the central government supported the decision and was taken to safeguard the health of the people.
“The announcement I have to make today is the most difficult decision I have had in the last seven months,” Lam told a news conference, the Associated Press reported.
“We want to ensure fairness and security and public health and we need to ensure that elections are held in an open, fair and impartial manner. Therefore, this decision is essential,” he said.
As of July 30, authorities reported an additional 149 cases of Covid-19, bringing the city’s total to 3,151, according to the city’s health department.
Initially, Hong Kong was congratulated on its response to the pandemic and was able to avoid widespread blockades that many countries imposed to curb the spread of the disease. However, coronavirus cases re-emerged and confirmed reaching new daily highs in recent weeks.
The postponement of the elections came after Hong Kong authorities announced on Thursday that 12 pro-democracy candidates have been disqualified from running in the next elections. Among them were high-profile activist Joshua Wong, and existing lawmakers Dennis Kwok and Alvin Yeung.
Under Hong Kong law, elections may be postponed if the city’s CEO believes he or she is likely to be “obstructed, disturbed, undermined or severely affected by reasons of violence or open violence or any health hazard and public safety “. Voting usually takes place within 14 days of the initial date, but the city leader also has the power to make regulations when there are “occasions of emergency or public danger.”
The disqualification of pro-democracy candidates provoked criticism abroad, including British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab.
In a statement on the UK government’s website, Raab said it was clear that they had been disqualified because of their political views, undermining the integrity of “One Country, Two Systems” and the rights and freedoms guaranteed in the Joint Declaration and Hong Kong Base. Law. “
Hong Kong has been governed under the policy of “one country, two systems” since the former British colony returned to the Chinese government in 1997. This framework gives Chinese territory a largely separate economic and legal system and allows those who they live on limited electoral rights.
Rumors of an election delay were already stirring even before the announcement.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Thursday called on Hong Kong to continue with the election as planned.
After local media reported a possible delay, pro-democracy activist Wong said on Twitter that “using (the) pandemic as an excuse to postpone elections is definitely a lie.”
He said hygiene measures could be increased to reduce the risk of infection during the vote.
The government re-imposed social distancing rules and tightened restrictions this week further. The measures were tougher than those introduced when the first health crisis appeared earlier this year.
Lunch services were suspended and meetings of more than two people were banned in late July, while face masks were required in all public places.
“But the (government) only knows how to interfere in elections that used to be free and fair, or disqualify my candidacy or call elections,” Wong said on Twitter.
The September election would have been the first city since its controversial national security law went into effect in late June. Beijing said the law is intended to ban secession, subversion of state power, terrorism and foreign interference, but critics feared it would be used to crush dissent.
According to the Reuters case, he cited an unofficial primary in July that saw more than 600,000 people cast a symbolic vote, citing the opposition camp.
Anyone convicted of a crime under the new national security legislation may not stand as a candidate in the election of the legislative council or district councils.