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Postponement of Hong Kong election draws anger from the opposition

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Announcement: Carrie Lam

Announcement: Carrie Lam

AP

Announcement: Carrie Lam

Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam has announced the postponement of highly-anticipated legislative elections by a year, citing a worsening coronavirus outbreak in the semi-autonomous Chinese city.

The Hong Kong government is invoking an emergency regulations ordinance in delaying the elections. Ms Lam said the government has the support of the Chinese government in making the decision to hold the elections on September 5 2021.

"The announcement I have to make is the most difficult decision I've had to make in the past seven months," Ms Lam said. "We want to ensure fairness and public safety and health, and need to make sure the election is held in an open, fair and impartial manner."

The postponement will be felt as a setback for the pro-democracy opposition, which was hoping to capitalise on disenchantment with the current pro-Beijing majority to make gains. A group of 22 legislators issued a statement accusing the government of using the outbreak as an excuse to delay the vote.

"Incumbent pro-democracy legislators, who represent 60pc of the public's opinion, collectively oppose the postponement and emphasise the responsibility of the SAR government to make every effort to arrange adequate anti-epidemic measures to hold elections in September as scheduled," the statement said, referring to the territory's official name, the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.

The city of 7.5 million people has seen a surge in coronavirus infections since the beginning of July. The government has tightened social-distancing restrictions, limiting public gatherings to two people, and banned dining-in at restaurants after 6pm.

The lead-up to the election, originally scheduled for September 6, has been closely watched after a national security law that took effect in late June stipulated that candidates who violated the law would be barred from running.

The new law is seen as Beijing's attempt to curb dissent in the city, after months of pro-democracy and anti-government protests in Hong Kong last year.

On Thursday, 12 pro-democracy candidates, including prominent pro-democracy activist Joshua Wong, were disqualified from running for not complying with the city's constitution or pledging allegiance to the local and national governments.

At a news conference yesterday, Mr Wong said: "This is the most scandalous election in Hong Kong history. No reasonable man would think that this election ban is not politically driven."

Irish Independent