Hong Kong postpones elections amidst surge in coronavirus cases, according to the announcement of the city’s leader Carrie Lam.
The Hong Kong elections were initially set to take place on September 6 but will now be happening on September 5, 2021, Lam said. She added that central government backed the decision, which was issued to protect the health of the people.
“The announcement I have to make today is the most difficult decision I’ve had to make in the past seven months,” Lam said at a news conference, based on the report from the Associated Press.
“We want to ensure fairness and public safety and health, and need to make sure the election is held in an open, fair and impartial manner. This decision is therefore essential,” she noted.
The city’s health department reported 149 additional cases of Covid-19 as of July 30. The total number of Covid-19 infections in Hong Kong is at least 3,151.
Hong Kong was initially lauded for its coronavirus pandemic response as it was able to avoid lockdowns that were imposed on some countries to curb the spread of the coronavirus. However, the coronavirus in Hong Kong resurfaced and the number of Covid-19 cases reached new daily highs in recent weeks.
Disqualification of pro-democracy nominees
The elections postponement came after Hong Kong authorities reported on Thursday that 12 pro-democracy nominees have been disqualified from participating in the upcoming elections. Among these nominees was high profile activist, Joshua Wong, and current legislators Dennis Kwok and Alvin Yeung.
Hong Kong law states that an election can be delayed if the city’s chief executive believes it is likely to be “obstructed, disrupted, undermined or seriously affected by riot or open violence or any danger to public health and safety.” Voting is usually held within 14 days of the original date, but the city’s leader can develop regulations when there are “occasions of emergency or public danger.”
The disqualification of the pro-democracy candidates invited criticism worldwide, including British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab who condemned the move.
In his statement on the UK government’s website, Raab said it was “clear they have 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’s Basic Law.”
Hong Kong has been observing the “one country, two systems” policy since the former British colony returned to Beijing’s leadership in 1997.
Rumors of postponing the Hong Kong elections were already brewing even before Carrie Lam’s announcement.
Meanwhile, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Thursday called on Hong Kong to hold the elections as planned.
However, the Hong King government imposed social distancing rules once again and constricted the measures further this week. Hong Kong ordered the suspension of dine-in services and gatherings of more than two people, while face masks were mandatory in different public places.