Thursday, August 13, 2020
Home World Hong Kong postpones elections for a yr 'over virus issues'

Hong Kong postpones elections for a yr ‘over virus issues’

Carrie Lam

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Hong Kong chief Carrie Lam made the announcement on Friday

The Hong Kong authorities has postponed September’s parliamentary elections by a yr, saying it’s needed amid an increase in coronavirus infections.

Hong Kong is presently experiencing a spike in Covid-19 infections, and reported 121 new circumstances on Friday.

Nevertheless, the opposition has accused the federal government of utilizing the pandemic as a pretext to cease folks from voting.

On Thursday, the federal government banned 12 pro-democracy candidates from working within the elections.

Opposition activists had hoped to acquire a majority within the Legislative Council (LegCo) in September’s ballot, capitalising on anger at Beijing’s imposition of a controversial nationwide safety regulation in Hong Kong, and fears that the territory’s freedoms are being eroded.

Professional-democracy candidates had made unprecedented beneficial properties in final yr’s district council elections, successful 17 out of 18 councils.

Chief Govt Carrie Lam mentioned she would invoke emergency powers to postpone the elections, calling it the “most tough choice I’ve remodeled the previous seven months”.

“This postponement is solely made based mostly on public security causes, there have been no political concerns,” she mentioned.

How unhealthy is the pandemic in Hong Kong?

Hong Kong has had greater than 100 each day new circumstances, for 10 days in a row.

The general numbers are nonetheless decrease than these of many different locations – however the spike comes after Hong Kong appeared to have contained the outbreak, with weeks of few or no native infections.

Now, it is experiencing what’s been described as a “third wave” of infections, and on Wednesday, Ms Lam mentioned the town was on the verge of a “large-scale outbreak”, which might trigger hospitals to “collapse”.

Well being specialists have instructed the BBC that, with the reintroduction of social distancing measures, the speed of an infection seems to have slowed, and so they hope Hong Kong shall be again to shut to zero native infections inside 4 to 6 weeks.

Town has launched robust new measures to fight the virus, banning gatherings of greater than two folks.

What is the argument for suspending elections?

The territory has had greater than 3,200 confirmed infections, and 27 deaths, from the virus.

Ms Lam mentioned Hong Kong’s pandemic was in “its worst state of affairs since January” and “as neighborhood unfold continues, the chance of a large-scale outbreak will improve”.

She mentioned that with 4.4m registered voters in Hong Kong, the elections would contain “a large-scale gathering and an immense an infection threat”, whereas social distancing measures would stop candidates from canvassing.

She additionally mentioned that continuing with elections in September would pose a specific threat to aged voters, and that Hong Kong had many registered voters in mainland China, and abroad, who could be unable to participate within the elections whereas border quarantine measures have been in place.

What is the argument in opposition to delaying the polls?

Opposition politicians say that, underneath native election legal guidelines, the polls can solely be postponed by 14 days, and {that a} longer delay would “set off a constitutional disaster within the metropolis”.

Lawmaker Tanya Chan mentioned she suspected pro-government politicians have been extra involved about “their very own election prospects” moderately than “the severity of the pandemic”.

Some specialists have recommended that measures might be put into place to make elections safer, reminiscent of lowering ready instances at polling stations – and {that a} delay of an entire yr is just not needed.

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Media captionHong Kong safety regulation: The BBC’s Stephen McDonell explains what it means, and what folks there assume

What produce other governments completed?

Not less than 68 international locations or territories postponed elections on account of Covid-19, whereas 49 locations held elections as deliberate, says the Worldwide Institute for Democracy and Electoral Help.

Throughout her press convention, Ms Lam argued that many governments had additionally postponed elections by a yr, together with the London’s Mayoral elections, and native authorities elections in Australia’s New South Wales.

Her comparability was queried by journalists, who mentioned the outbreak in Hong Kong was not as extreme. London presently has a complete of about 35,000 Covid-19 circumstances, in comparison with Hong Kong’s 3,200.

In the meantime, in Australia, by-elections in Victoria went forward as scheduled in March, as did a federal by-election in New South Wales.

Singapore held its normal election earlier this month – and had its highest turnout lately, says Eugene Tan, a regulation professor and political commentator at Singapore Administration College.

“There may be by no means a very good time for an election throughout a pandemic,” he says, however the vote went forward with a number of security measures in place and “demonstrates that it’s potential to guard public well being at the same time as folks go about exercising their democratic proper to vote.”

How does the Legislative Council work?

The Legislative Council – or LegCo – helps to make and amend Hong Kong’s legal guidelines.

It’s made up of 70 seats – however solely 35 of those seats are instantly voted for by the general public.

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File photograph of the chamber of the Legislative Council

One other 30 seats characterize “purposeful constituencies” – these are voted for by smaller teams representing particular pursuits, primarily companies, banking and commerce. Traditionally these sectors have been largely pro-Beijing.

The final 5 seats are made up of district councillors who’re elected by the general public to sit down on LegCo.

This technique, the place solely a proportion of LegCo councillors are chosen by the general public, has been known as undemocratic by critics however supporters of the system say it helps keep away from populism and protects Hong Kong’s enterprise pursuits.

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