Hong Kong leader delays legislative elections, asks Beijing to resolve legal questions, citing coronavirus pandemic dangers

Hong Kong leader delays legislative elections, asks Beijing to resolve legal questions, citing coronavirus pandemic dangers

  • Citing health risks of voting amid Covid-19, Chief Executive Carrie Lam invokes emergency powers to postpone Legislative Council polls by a year
  • National People’s Congress Standing Committee to decide legal issues surrounding move, while oppositions warns of collapse of constitutional order

Hong Kong’s embattled leader set off another political storm on Friday by invoking emergency powers to postpone the Legislative Council elections scheduled for September by one year, citing the risk of further escalating a resurgent Covid-19 crisis.A day after election officials banned 12 opposition activists from running in the polls, Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor announced that China’s top legislative body would step in to rule on resolving any legal issues stemming from the vacuum that would be created by pushing back the elections from September 6 this year to September 5, 2021.

“Hong Kong’s epidemic situation has entered the most severe stage since January, as the community outbreak is expected to continue,” Lam said, as the city reported a 10th straight day of more than 100 new infections. “Voting, which involves mass gatherings and social contacts, could pose a very serious risk to public health.”

Denying any political motive in delaying the elections by invoking powers granted under the colonial-era Emergency Regulations Ordinance, she described it as the hardest decision she had made since the coronavirus first hit Hong Kong seven months ago.

She recognised the problem this would create because of the four-year limit to a Legco term under the city’s mini-constitution, the Basic Law. She had asked Beijing to step in, she said, and the State Council had responded with full support.