Hong Kong postpones September elections due to coronavirus outbreak
Hong Kong will postpone legislative elections due to be held in September because of the coronavirus outbreak, the city's leader said Friday.
According to CNN, Hong Kong's Chief Executive Carrie Lam announced the move to postpone the Legislative Council elections scheduled for September 6 during a recent news conference, saying this was the most difficult decision she had made in the last seven months.
She added that she had the support of the Chinese central government in making this decision.
Lam said the delay was necessary to protect public health and guarantee fairness in the election.
After falling to zero daily transmissions in June, a resurgence of coronavirus cases occurred in recent weeks. Health officials are warning of a potential crisis if the increase in cases is not brought under control.
But pro-democracy figures view a possible election delay as a strategic maneuver on the part of the government, a way to avoid a potential loss following China's imposition of a new national security law on the city, banning secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces.
Opposition parties were hoping to ride a wave of discontent with the government during the upcoming election and win in an historic victory. They anticipated this would be doable given that just under half the seats are controlled by so-called functional constituencies, which represent business and society groups and are typically pro government.
A recent primary election designed to narrow down the number of pro-democracy opposition candidates attracted more than 600,000 votes, far more than the 170,000 or so organizers were hoping for. The turnout attracted the ire of Beijing, however, which suggested the vote was illegally interfering with the upcoming poll.
Last year, pro-democracy candidates won a landslide victory in local council elections. A similar result in the legislative council could put them in a position to force a constitutional crisis by blocking the budget and pressuring Lam to resign. Both the Chinese and Hong Kong governments have suggested such a plan could be illegal under the new national security law.
This week, a dozen pro-democracy candidates were barred from standing for election, including prominent activist Joshua Wong.
In a statement, the Hong Kong government said it supported the decisions by returning officers to "invalidate 12 nominees for this year's Legislative Council (LegCo) General Election."
It said the candidates had been barred on the grounds that they would not uphold the Basic Law, Hong Kong's de facto constitution, and suggested more could be disqualified in future.
The government said it "respects and safeguards the lawful rights of Hong Kong people, including the right to vote and the right to stand for elections."
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