US condemns postponement of Hong Kong's Legislative Council elections

Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam postponed the Sept 6 election by a year because of a rise in coronavirus cases. PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON (BLOOMBERG, REUTERS) - The United States condemns Hong Kong's decision to postpone its Legislative Council elections by a year and urges the city's government to reconsider, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement on Saturday (Aug 1).

"There is no valid reason for such a lengthy delay," Mr Pompeo said. "This regrettable action confirms that Beijing has no intention of upholding the commitments it made to the Hong Kong people and the United Kingdom under the Sino-British Joint Declaration, a UN-registered treaty, and the Basic Law."

Mr Pompeo said Hong Kong authorities should hold the elections as close as possible to Sept 6, the date for which they were originally scheduled.

Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam last Friday postponed the Sept 6 election for the Chinese-ruled city's legislature by a year because of a rise in coronavirus cases.

The decision to delay the vote came after 12 pro-democracy candidates were disqualified from running for perceived subversive intentions and opposition to a sweeping new security law imposed by Beijing, prompting questions among many about whether the pandemic was the real reason for the delay.

Mrs Lam said she had to invoke an emergency law to make the postponement and no political considerations were involved.

China's Parliament would decide how to fill the legislative vacuum, she added. She told reporters that the decision was aimed at safeguarding people's health.

"We have three million voters going out in one day across Hong Kong, such flow of people would cause high risk of infection," Mrs Lam said.

Hong Kong has reported more than 3,000 coronavirus cases since January, far lower than in other major cities around the world. But the number of new infections has been in the triple-digits for the past 10 days.

The opposition had aimed to ride a wave of resentment over the new national security law to win a majority in the Legislative Council, where half the seats are directly elected with the other half filled mostly by pro-Beijing appointees.

The Chinese and Hong Kong governments say the national security law is necessary to preserve order and prosperity after months of often-violent anti-China protests last year.

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