Hong Kong postpones legislative election citing coronavirus surge

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Hong Kong’s chief Carrie Lam has invoked emergency legal guidelines to postpone September’s Legislative Council election by a yr, citing a worsening coronavirus outbreak as the explanation.

The move on Friday is seen as a setback for the pro-democracy opposition, which hoped to capitalise on disenchantment with the present pro-Beijing majority to safe a historic majority itself.

At a information convention, Lam mentioned the choice to delay the vote till September 5, 2021, was her “most difficult” this yr but it surely was essential to safeguard individuals’s well being.

“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,” added the Beijing-backed chief, noting that the Chinese authorities had given her full backing.

Lam mentioned she was “only paying attention to the current pandemic situation”, denying the move was a political choice to hobble the opposition, whereas Beijing welcomed the postponement as “necessary, reasonable and legal”.

Before Lam’s announcement, a gaggle of 22 lawmakers had issued a press release accusing the federal government of utilizing the outbreak as an excuse to postpone the vote.

The choice comes a day after officers disqualified a dozen opposition candidates, together with outstanding pro-democracy activist Joshua Wong, from operating within the elections.

‘Who is she attempting to idiot?’

The metropolis of seven.5 million individuals has seen a surge in coronavirus infections for the reason that starting of July. Hong Kong had registered some 3,100 infections as of Thursday, greater than double the tally initially of the month.

Government critics, nonetheless, say Hong Kong has to date been in a position to largely include the outbreak and level out to the greater than 40 nations which have held elections in current months regardless of going through a far worse outbreak than Hong Kong.

In November final yr, the opposition camp secured a landslide victory in district council elections, using on assist for an anti-government protest motion triggered by a now-shelved invoice that will have allowed individuals to be despatched to mainland China for trial.

“The political parties associated with Beijing … have been saying for quite a number of weeks that they don’t think that the election should be held because they are afraid that they would lose,” mentioned Emily Lau, chairperson of the International Affairs Committee of the Democratic Party, dismissing Lam’s justification for delaying the vote on well being grounds.

“Who is she trying to fool?” Lau informed Al Jazeera. “I think it’s quite laughable.”

National safety legislation

The elections for Hong Kong’s Legislative Council, often known as LegCo, had been scheduled for September 6.

Only half of the 70 seats are straight elected by Hong Kong individuals, with 30 chosen by particular curiosity teams who’re principally pro-Beijing and the remaining 5 seats occupied by popularly-elected district councillors. 

The extremely anticipated vote would have been the primary since Beijing imposed a controversial nationwide safety legislation imposed on the previous British colony final month stipulated that candidates who violated it might be barred from operating.

Critics say the legislation is an try by China to curb dissent in Hong Kong, ushering a crackdown that spells the finish of the Chinese-ruled metropolis’s excessive diploma of autonomy. 

The Chinese and Hong Kong governments say the legislation is not going to undermine Hong Kong’s freedoms and is critical to protect order and prosperity after months of often-violent anti-government protests final yr.

On Thursday, 12 pro-democracy candidates had been barred from operating within the elections for not complying with town’s structure or pledging allegiance to the native and nationwide governments.

“Beyond any doubt, this is the most scandalous election ever in Hong Kong history,” Wong informed reporters earlier on Friday. “I wish to emphasise that no reasonable man would think that this election ban is not politically driven,” he mentioned.

“Beijing has staged multiple acts to prevent the opposition bloc from taking the majority in the Hong Kong legislature.”

SOURCE: Al Jazeera and information businesses