Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam is delaying the area’s legislative elections by a 12 months, citing a resurgence in coronavirus instances.
Critics decry the choice, seen as the newest in a collection of current strikes that curb Hong Kong’s restricted autonomy. That autonomy was assured for 50 years after the top of British rule and its handover to China in 1997.
Lam, who’s backed by Beijing, invoked emergency powers — a holdover from the Chinese territory’s colonial period — to postpone the elections, scheduled for Sept. 6, till September 2021.
It was “the toughest decision,” Lam told reporters on Friday.
“But I have to have consider the public safety and the health condition for all the Hong Kong residents,” she stated, noting that the variety of confirmed instances of the coronavirus in Hong Kong has doubled previously six weeks.
From June 13 to July 5, there have been no locally transmitted cases in Hong Kong. Schools began reopening in late May however have been shut down in mid-July, because the variety of instances started to climb in what’s been dubbed a third wave of infections. As of Friday night, there were 3,273 cases in Hong Kong.
Lam stated the central authorities in Beijing helps the delay.
The determination comes a month after Beijing imposed a controversial and sweeping nationwide safety regulation — handed in secret — on Hong Kong. The regulation bans subversion of state power, secession, terrorism and collusion with foreign entities — and carries a penalty of as much as life in jail. This has heightened fears that Beijing is stripping away the freedoms that Hong Kong has loved.
“The legal firewall, if you like, that separates the two systems [of Hong Kong and Beijing] is now gone,” Alan Leong, a former chair of Hong Kong’s bar affiliation and chair of Hong Kong’s Civic Party, told NPR’s Emily Feng at the time. “We are allowing the long arms of the Chinese Communist Party to reach Hong Kong.”
Earlier this week, Hong Kong disqualified 12 opposition candidates from operating in legislative elections, citing their collusion with international forces and opposition to the nationwide safety regulation.
Also this week, Hong Kong police arrested 4 folks for on-line statements. Police say the statements promote Hong Kong’s independence from China, which is prohibited underneath the nationwide safety regulation.
“What we’re seeing here is four young people who are potentially facing quite serious jail time simply for expressing their political views online,” Joshua Rosenzweig of Amnesty International in Hong Kong told NPR’s John Ruwitch. “Under international human rights law, blanket prohibitions of peaceful expression are just not allowed.”
Friday’s announcement by Lam, the Hong Kong chief government, marks the second time she has invoked emergency powers since assuming workplace in 2017. The first time occurred in October 2019, Feng reported, to ban face masks in public gatherings amid anti-government protests. Before that, the ordinance had not been used since 1967.