HK postpones elections for a year ‘over virus concerns’
The Hong Kong government has postponed September’s parliamentary elections by a year, saying it is necessary amid a rise in coronavirus infections.
Hong Kong is currently experiencing a spike in Covid-19 infections, and reported 121 new cases on Friday.
However, the opposition has accused the government of using the pandemic as a pretext to stop people from voting, the BBC reported.
On Thursday, the government banned 12 pro-democracy candidates from running in the elections.
Opposition activists had hoped to obtain a majority in the Legislative Council (LegCo) in September’s poll, capitalising on anger at Beijing’s imposition of a controversial national security law in Hong Kong, and fears that the territory’s freedoms are being eroded.
Hong Kong, a former British colony, was handed back to China in 1997 under an agreement meant to guarantee a high degree of autonomy for 50 years.
Pro-democracy candidates had made unprecedented gains in last year’s district council elections, winning 17 out of 18 councils.
On Friday, Chief Executive Carrie Lam said she would invoke emergency powers to postpone the elections, calling it the “most difficult decision I’ve made over the past seven months”.
“This postponement is entirely made based on public safety reasons, there were no political considerations,” she said.
Separately on Friday, Hong Kong police put six overseas activists on a wanted list on suspicion of violating the new national security law, media reports, including from Chinese state TV, said.
Reported to be among them are high-profile activist Nathan Law, who has fled to the UK, and Simon Cheng, a former employee of the UK’s Hong Kong consulate who alleges he was tortured in China and was recently granted political asylum in Britain.
But Hong Kong police have refused to comment.
Cheng told the BBC that an arrest warrant would not stop him speaking out about issues in Hong Kong. “The totalitarian regime now criminalises me, and I would take that not as a shame but an honour,” he said.