A child and a woman wearing face masks were seen walking down the street on July 27, 2020 in Hong Kong, China.
Vernon Yuen | NurPhoto | Getty Images
Driving elections in Hong Kong will be postponed for a year, city leader Carrie Lam announced Friday with a new rise in coronavirus cases.
The vote was originally scheduled for September 6, but according to Lama, it will now take place on September 5, 2021. She said the central government supported the decision and was taken to protect human health.
“The announcement I have to make today is the most difficult decision I have had to make in the last seven months,” Lam told a news conference.
“We want to ensure justice and public safety and health, and we need to ensure that elections are held in an open, fair and impartial manner. This decision is therefore necessary, “she said.
As of July 30, the authorities had reported 149 more Covid-19 cases, bringing the city’s total to at least 3,151, according to the city’s health department.
Hong Kong was initially welcomed for its response to the pandemic and was able to avoid the large-scale blockades imposed by many countries in order to stop the spread of the disease. However, the coronavirus reappeared and confirmed cases have reached new daily highs in recent weeks.
The election was postponed after the Hong Kong authorities announced on Thursday that 12 pro-democracy candidates had been disqualified in the upcoming elections. Among them were senior activist Joshua Wong and incumbent lawmakers Dennis Kwok and Alvin Yeung.
Under Hong Kong law, elections may be postponed if the head of the city considers that they are likely to be “blocked, disrupted, undermined or severely affected by unrest or open violence or any danger to public health and safety”. Voting must normally take place within 14 days of the original date, but the city leader also has the power to issue regulations when “extraordinary events or threats to the public” occur.
The disqualification of pro-democracy candidates has provoked criticism overseas, including the British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, who killed the move.
In a statement on the UK government’s website, Raab said that “it was clear that they had been disqualified for their political views, which weakened the integrity of” one country, two systems “and the rights and freedoms guaranteed in the Joint Declaration and the Hong Kong Basic Law. “
Hong Kong has ruled a “one country, two systems” policy since 1997, when the former British colony returned to the Chinese government. This framework provides China with a largely independent economic and legal system and allows those living there limited voting rights.
Rumors of a delay in the election erupted even before the announcement.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Thursday called on Hong Kong to continue the election as planned.
Following local media reports of a possible delay, pro-democracy activist Wong told Twitter that “using (the) pandemic as an excuse to postpone elections is definitely a lie.”
He stated that hygiene measures could be increased to reduce the risk of infection during the vote.
The government reintroduced rules on social distance this week and reduced restrictions. The measures were stricter than those introduced when the health crisis first appeared at the beginning of the year.
Catering services were suspended and meetings of more than two people were banned at the end of July, while masks were mandatory in all public places.
“But (the government) can only intervene in elections that were free and fair, and that either disqualified my candidacy or called it off,” Wong said on Twitter.
The September elections would be the first cities since the entry into force of the controversial National Security Act at the end of June. Beijing said the law was supposed to ban secession, state fraud, terrorism and foreign interference, but critics feared it would be used to suppress dissent.
An unofficial mayor reportedly saw more than 600,000 people in a symbolic vote in July. According to Reuters, she quoted the opposition camp.
Anyone convicted of a criminal offense under the new national security legislation cannot be a candidate for election to the Legislative Council or the District Council.