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Hong Kong Legislative Council election could be delayed for a year: Sources

Protesters ram into the Legislative Council building using a metal trolley on the anniversary of Hong Kong's handover to China on July 1, 2019. PHOTO: REUTERS. Sketched by the Pan Pacific Agency.

HONG KONG, Jul 29, 2020, RTHK. Sources have told RTHK that the government is studying the possibility of postponing the Legislative Council election for a year, with little hope that the Covid-19 outbreak will be brought under control by September, RTHK reported.

The latest development comes ahead of the end of the nomination period on Friday.

The Legco election is slated for September 6.

There are reports that Chief Executive could invoke emergency powers introduced during the colonial era to “make any regulations whatsoever which he [or she] may consider desirable in the public interest” in case of “emergency or public danger”.

Some pro-establishment figures, among them National People’s Congress Standing Committee member Tam Yiu-chung, have called for a delay in the vote in recent days, citing the coronavirus outbreak.

But the opposition camp – riding on its victory in last November’s district council elections – is against the idea.

Exco member Ronny Tong said the SAR government could ask the NPC Standing Committee to extend the current Legco term from four years – as stipulated in the Basic Law – until the next election is completed.

A Chinese University politics professor said the rationale for postponing the upcoming Legco elections because of the Covid-19 pandemic is weak, RTHK reported.

Professor Wilson Wong, an associate professor of CUHK’s Department of Government and Public Administration, made the comments amid reports that the vote could be delayed by up to a year.

Speaking on an RTHK programme, Wong said that countries like South Korea, Singapore, Poland and others have managed to go ahead with elections this year even with the pandemic, and that there have been suggestions on how to vote safely, for instance having people in quarantine vote by post and extending the number of days that people can vote.

He cited the primaries held by the pro-democracy camp more than two weeks ago, which saw about 600,000 people turn up to vote, without any confirmed Covid-19 infections linked to it.

Sources have told RTHK that Chief Executive Carrie Lam is expected to invoke emergency powers introduced during the colonial era which gives her the authority to “make any regulations whatsoever which she may consider desirable in the public interest” in case of “emergency or public danger”.

Wong said even if the vote is delayed by one year and the economy improves by then, it would still not bolster the pro-establishment camp’s performance. He warned that international sanctions on Hong Kong could intensify.

He said that public dissatisfaction has less to do with the economy but more with the national security law and the mass social unrest of 2019, and that the mood is unlikely to change after one year.

Wong also warned that if the National People’s Congress Standing Committee steps in to help pave the way for the delay, people in Hong Kong may feel it would deal another blow to the rule of law, further hampering governance.

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