Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam on Friday (July 31) announced she was postponing legislative elections for one year, just days after a dozen opposition candidates were disqualified from running in the Sept. 6 polls.
At a news conference Friday evening, she named the renewed impetus of the Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19) as the reason for the delay. The number of infections more than doubled to 3,273 during July.
The election would have been the first test of public opinion since the introduction of a national security act on July 1, which sent opposition members fleeing overseas or disbanding their political movements. Since then, several countries have suspended extradition agreements with Hong Kong as they fear citizens will be handed over to China if they express criticism of the communist regime.
She said the election would be held on September 5, 2021.
“Today I announce the most difficult decision in the last seven months … to postpone the Legislative Council election,” Lam told reporters.
“The epidemic is posing a serious risk to Hong Kong. The election is unique, the biggest in Hong Kong,” Lam said, adding that going through with the election would pose a risk to a great number of people.
A group of 22 lawmakers issued a statement accusing the Hong Kong administration of using the outbreak as an excuse to delay the vote.
“Our resistance will continue on and we hope the world can stand with us in the upcoming uphill battle,” Joshua Wong, one of the city’s most prominent pro-democracy figures, told reporters. “They can’t kill us all.”
White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany expressed the Trump administration’s disapproval with the decision, saying, “We condemn the Hong Kong government’s decision to postpone for one year its legislative council elections and to disqualify opposition candidates.”