At a news conference, Hong Kong CEO Kari Lam said the move to postpone the September 6th legislature was the most difficult decision he has made in seven months. She added that she has the support of the Chinese central government in making this decision.
Lam said the delay was necessary to protect public health and ensure fairness in elections.
“The new wave of epidemics could take weeks or even longer. Even if the previous experience in April or May, even if the epidemic stabilizes, society will take some time to recover. Experts say if it is not immediate, they are evolving and deliver effective vaccines, otherwise a winter epidemic is very likely to occur by the end of the year, ”Lam said.
She cited a colonial-era emergency ordinance to postpone local elections.
Under the basic law – Hong Kong’s ministerial constitution – the terms of the legislature are limited to four years. Lam said she therefore turned to the central people’s government for guidance on how to deal with this one-year “vacuum”. She said Beijing would submit a decision to the National Assembly’s standing committee.
Lam said that although it is not up to her, she believes a logical solution would be to allow the current legislature to continue next year.
Some pro-democracy activists, including Joshua Wong, say the government is using the pandemic as an excuse to postpone the decisive Hong Kong election indefinitely.
They accused the government of wanting to avoid a potential loss following China’s imposition of a new law on the city’s national security, banning secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces.
The Democratic camp aimed to win a majority in the 70-member legislature’s polls in September.
Opposition parties aimed to drive a wave of dissatisfaction with the government to a historic victory in the semi-democratic legislature, where just under half of the seats are controlled by so-called functional constituencies, which are groups of business and society and are usually pro-government.
Last year, the candidates for democracy won an incredible victory in the local council elections. A similar result in the legislature could put them in a position to impose a constitutional crisis by blocking the budget and pressuring Lam to resign. Both the Chinese and the Hong Kong government have suggested that such a plan could be illegal under the new national security law.
In a statement, the Hong Kong government said it supported the decisions by “returning staff for” invalid 12 candidates for this year’s LegCo general election. “
It says candidates have been banned on the grounds that they will not uphold the basic law, the de facto constitution of Hong Kong, and suggest that more could be disqualified in the future.
The government said it “respects and protects the legal rights of Hong Kong people, including the right to vote and the right to stand for election.”
Several letters posted online by disqualified candidates from returning staff informing them of their decision cited previous opposition to the security law as the reason for the move.
“The excuse they use is that I describe (the security law) as a draconian law, which shows that I do not support this sweeping law,” Wong said.
Another disqualified candidate, Dennis Kwok, was reportedly expelled for expressing an intention to use his position as legislator “in such a way as to force the government to join certain requirements”, effectively the work of the opposition MP in most democracies.
This broken story has been updated with additional reporting.
Journalist Phoebe Lai from Hong Kong presented reports.