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HONG KONG (AP) — Hong Kong chief Carrie Lam introduced Friday that the federal government will postpone extremely anticipated legislative elections by one yr, citing a worsening coronavirus outbreak within the semi-autonomous Chinese metropolis.
The Hong Kong authorities is invoking an emergency ordinance in delaying the elections. Lam stated the federal government has the assist of the Chinese authorities in making the choice to carry the elections on Sept. 5, 2021.
“The announcement I have to make today is the most difficult decision I’ve had to make in the past seven months,” Lam stated at a news convention.
“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 stated.
The postponement is a setback for the pro-democracy opposition, which hoped to capitalize on disenchantment with the present pro-Beijing majority to make features. A bunch of 22 lawmakers issued a press release forward of the announcement accusing the federal government of utilizing the outbreak as an excuse to delay the vote.
“Incumbent pro-democracy legislators, who represent 60% of the public’s opinion, collectively oppose the postponement and emphasize the responsibility of the SAR government to make every effort to arrange adequate anti-epidemic measures to hold elections in September as scheduled,” the group stated, referring to the territory’s official title, the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.
“Otherwise, it is tantamount to uprooting the foundation of the establishment of the SAR.”
The metropolis of seven.5 million individuals has had a surge in coronavirus infections because the starting of July. Hong Kong has recorded 3,273 infections as of Friday, greater than double the tally on July 1.
The authorities has tightened social distancing restrictions, limiting public gatherings to 2 individuals, and banned dining-in at eating places after 6 p.m.
The lead-up to the elections had been carefully watched after a nationwide safety regulation that took impact in late June stipulated that candidates who violated the regulation can be barred from working.
The new regulation was seen as Beijing’s try to curb dissent within the metropolis after months of pro-democracy and anti-government protests rocked Hong Kong final yr over a controversial — however now withdrawn — extradition invoice that will enable suspects to be despatched to the mainland for trial.
The months lengthy protests plunged Hong Kong into its largest ever political disaster, with clashes between protesters and police turning violent at occasions. Over 8,000 individuals have been arrested in connection to the protests since June 2019.
Dissatisfaction with the Hong Kong authorities helped the pro-democracy bloc obtain a landslide victory in district council elections final November, a momentum that the opposition hoped to trip to achieve a majority within the legislature.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo stated on a radio present within the U.S. on Thursday that the elections in Hong Kong “must proceed on time.”
“The people of Hong Kong deserve to have their voice represented by the elected officials that they choose in those elections,” he stated. “If they destroy that, if they take that down, it will be another marker that will simply prove that the Chinese Communist Party has now made Hong Kong just another Communist-run city.”
China’s overseas ministry insisted on Friday that Hong Kong’s legislative elections are an “internal affair.”
“It is the responsibility of the Hong Kong SAR government to ensure that the elections for the 7th Legislative Council are held in a safe, orderly, fair and just environment,” ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin stated Friday. “We believe that the Hong Kong SAR government will proceed from the current anti-epidemic situation in Hong Kong and handle relevant matters in accordance with the law.”
On Thursday, 12 pro-democracy candidates together with outstanding pro-democracy activist Joshua Wong had been disqualified from working for not complying with the town’s mini-constitution or pledging allegiance to the native and nationwide governments.
“Beyond any doubt, this is the most scandalous election ever in Hong Kong history,” Wong stated at a news convention Friday. “I wish to emphasize that no reasonable man would think that this election ban is not politically driven.”
“Beijing has staged multiple acts to prevent the opposition bloc from taking the majority in the Hong Kong legislature,” he stated.
The postponement drew criticism from the New York-based group Human Rights Watch.
“Postponing the September elections for a year is a cynical move to contain a political emergency, not a public health one. This simply allows Hong Kong chief executive Carrie Lam to deny Hong Kong people their right to choose their government,” stated Sophie Richardson, the group’s China director.
“Without making any attempt to look at alternative methods of voting, or ensuring all voting rights will be respected, Lam and her backers in Beijing are merely masking repression under the guise of public health,” she stated.