Hong Kong Delays Legislative Election for One Year on Virus

Ruben Fields
July 31, 2020

Meanwhile, global tech giants with a presence in Hong Kong, such as Facebook and Google, are evaluating the impact of the security law that gives China authority to demand that they turn over user data or censor content seen as violating the law - even when posted from overseas. Hong Kong had registered some 3,100 infections as of Thursday, more than double the tally at the start of the month.

The disqualifications were criticized by Joshua Wong and other pro-democracy advocates, and that has only been exacerbated by the decision to delay the election as they questioned the legality of the delay.

The Chinese and Hong Kong governments say the law will not undermine Hong Kong's freedoms and is necessary to preserve order and prosperity after months of often-violent anti-government protests previous year.

The postponement is a setback for the pro-democracy opposition, which was hoping to capitalize on disenchantment with the current pro-Beijing majority to make gains.

"Beyond any doubt, this is the most scandalous election ever in Hong Kong history", Wong said at a news conference Friday.

The announcement by city leader Carrie Lam also followed news that 12 pro-democracy candidates had been disqualified from the upcoming election.

They are already reeling from the government's imposition of a Beijing-imposed national security law last month, which has been widely criticized and let to punitive measures by the Trump administration. Pro-democracy candidates gained massive ground during the 2019 district council elections, winning 17 of the 18 councils.

The new law was seen as Beijing's attempt to curb dissent in the city after months of pro-democracy and anti-government protests rocked Hong Kong a year ago over a controversial - but now withdrawn - extradition bill that would allow suspects to be sent to the mainland for trial.

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By mid-July, 62 countries and eight territories have postponed elections, according to the International Foundation for Electoral Systems, Lam noted, adding that Britain has postponed polls of the local and mayoral elections in England for a year to May 2021 due to the pandemic outbreak.

The pandemic and mass arrests have helped throttle the movement, but anger towards Beijing still seethes.

In response, China imposed its security law on June 30, bypassing the legislature and keeping the contents of the law secret until it was enacted. But lawyers and activists have said the law's vaguely-worded clauses could be used to silence dissidents and political opponents.

More than 600,000 voters cast ballots in the primary despite warnings from officials that the event might violate the national security law or spread the coronavirus though no confirmed cases have been traced to the event yet.

It targets four types of crime - subversion, secession, terrorism and colluding with foreign forces - with up to life in prison.

"Nonetheless, the government decision is far more than depriving my right to political participation".

One provision bans "inciting hatred" towards the government.

Libraries and schools have pulled books deemed to be in breach of the new law. Others have been arrested for possessing or shouting independence and other protest slogans.

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