HONG KONG: Hong Kong’s democracy supporters had been dealt an enormous blow on Friday as authorities postponed native elections for a yr due to the coronavirus, capping a devastating month of political disqualifications, arrests for social media posts and activists fleeing abroad.
Town’s democracy camp has come below sustained assault since Beijing imposed a sweeping nationwide safety regulation final month — a transfer China’s leaders described as a “sword” hanging over the top of its critics.
The following weeks have despatched a chill by way of a metropolis used to talking its thoughts and supposedly assured sure freedoms and autonomy in a “One Country, Two Systems” deal agreed forward of its 1997 handover from Britain.
On Friday night chief govt Carrie Lam, a pro-Beijing appointee, introduced that September elections for the monetary hub’s legislature could be delayed for a yr utilizing emergency anti-virus powers. She denied the transfer was a political resolution to hobble the town’s opposition.
“I am only paying attention to the current pandemic situation,” she mentioned. Beijing welcomed the transfer as “necessary, reasonable and legal”.
However the resolution infuriated democracy supporters who had warned in opposition to any transfer to delay the polls, accusing authorities of utilizing the Covid-19 pandemic to keep away from a drubbing on the poll field.
“This is a sleazy, contemptible political act to help thwart any victory on the part of the democrats in the original election,” opposition lawmaker Claudia Mo mentioned, warning that public anger might explode.
The postponement got here a day after a dozen distinguished democracy activists had been barred from standing for election as a result of their political beliefs had been deemed unacceptable.
“Beyond any doubt (this) is the most scandalous election fraud era in Hong Kong history,” Joshua Wong, one of many metropolis’s most recognisable democracy figures, advised reporters Friday earlier than the elections had been postponed.
Wong was a kind of disqualified, together with different younger firebrand activists and a few older, extra reasonable democracy campaigners.
Hong Kong isn’t a democracy — its chief is chosen by pro-Beijing committees.
However half of its legislature’s 70 seats are straight elected, providing the town’s 7.5 million residents a uncommon likelihood to have their voices heard on the poll field.
Planning to capitalise on final yr’s big and sometimes violent anti-Beijing protests, democracy activists had been hoping to win their first-ever majority in September.
However officers have begun scrubbing poll lists of candidates. Examples given by authorities of unacceptable political beliefs have included criticising the brand new safety regulation, campaigning to win a legislation-blocking majority and refusing to recognise China’s sovereignty.
Earlier within the day a coalition of democracy events warned any bid to delay the elections would herald “the complete collapse of our constitutional system”.
Round half of Hong Kong’s practically 3,300 Covid-19 circumstances have been detected up to now month alone and authorities worry hospitals are on the verge of being overwhelmed.
Revealed in Daybreak, August 1st, 2020