HK postpones LegCo elections due to COVID-19 concerns; new date set for September 5 next year
The Legislative Council (LegCo) elections in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) will be postponed due to the worsening COVID-19 situation in the region, announced Chief Executive Carrie Lam on Friday.
The elections were scheduled to be held on September 6 and the new date is set for September 5 next year.
Lam said that it was the hardest choice she had made in the past seven months since the outbreak. The decision is aimed at people's health, said Lam, adding that the central government supports the decision.
The epidemic situation in this region was kept firmly under control from mid-April to late June. However, Hong Kong has seen a spike in coronavirus cases since July 5.
Hong Kong's Center for Health Protection reported 121 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday, marking the tenth day that number of daily COVID-19 cases remained above 100. So far, there have been 3,272 infections in Hong Kong, with the death toll at 27.
Under the current circumstances, if the LegCo election was held as scheduled, its openness and fairness could hardly be ensured, and the safety of voters, candidates and staff at polling stations and counting stations would be endangered, Lam added.
The announcement came a day after 12 opposition lawmakers and activists were disqualified from competing in the legislative elections. They were accused of not upholding the Basic Law.
Central government supports the decision to delay LegCo election
The central government on Wednesday stated on matters related to the postponement of the seventh-term LegCo election of Hong Kong.
The Central People's Government supports the decision to postpone the seventh-term LegCo election of the HKSAR for a year in accordance with the law in the interests of the public and based on the actual situations in Hong Kong, it said in a statement.
On matters concerning how to handle the vacancy of the LegCo, the Central People's Government will ask the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress to make a decision in accordance with the law. The HKSAR shall properly handle work related to the postponement of the election of the seventh-term LegCo in accordance with the law, added the statement.
'Postponing Hong Kong LegCo election reasonable, legitimate'
The Chinese central government fully understands and supports HKSAR government's decision to postpone the LegCo election in the view of severe COVID-19 epidemic situation, a statement said Friday.
The statement issued by the Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office of the State Council said the postponement shows the great sense of responsibility towards Hong Kong residents' lives and health, saying that it is a "very necessary" move, reasonable, legitimate.
Hong Kong is facing an extremely severe epidemic control situation since the outbreak of a new wave of COVID-19 in early July, the statement said, adding that it is now Hong Kong's most important and pressing task to take strict and forceful measures to contain the spread as soon as possible.
To prevent the risk of further spreading, the HKSAR government acted in accordance with Hong Kong's Emergency Regulations Ordinance to postpone the LegCo election for a year.
This is an important measure to protect the lives and health of Hong Kong residents and ensure a just and fair election. It also accords with the common practice of many other places around the world, the statement said, adding that the decision will neither affect the normal operation of the body of power of the HKSAR nor harm the democratic rights and freedoms enjoyed by Hong Kong residents in accordance with the law.
The Standing Committee of the National People's Congress, China's top legislature, will at the earliest possible date decide on the vacancy of the LegCo incurred due to the postponement, it added.
Central gov't liaison office supports postponing of election
The Liaison Office of the Central People's Government in the HKSAR on Friday voiced understanding of and support to the HKSAR government's decision to postpone the LegCo election due to the severe COVID-19 epidemic situation.
In conformity with the mainstream public opinions, the decision to postpone the LegCo election is in line with the Constitution, the HKSAR Basic Law and local laws of the HKSAR, the statement said, adding it represents the efforts of science-based epidemic control and embodies the sense of responsibility of protecting lives and health of Hong Kong residents.
According to statistics, since the COVID-19 outbreak, at least 68 countries and regions have decided to postpone national or local elections due to the pandemic, said the statement, noting that it is a consensus of the international community to respect science and put lives first.
The central government has paid close attention to the recent COVID-19 outbreak in the HKSAR, and will offer all necessary support and aid to the HKSAR based on its needs to fully protect the lives and health of Hong Kong residents, said the statement.