Legco polls to be postponed for a year: Carrie Lam - RTHK
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Legco polls to be postponed for a year: Carrie Lam

2020-07-31 HKT 18:12
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  • Legco polls to be postponed for a year: Carrie Lam
Chief Executive Carrie Lam on Friday said the Legislative Council elections that were to be held on September 6 will be postponed for a year to September 5, 2021.

She said the central authorities will ask the National People's Congress Standing Committee (NPCSC) to make a decision on how to fill the vacuum that this will create.

Lam suggested that this could involve extending the term of the current Legco, even though the Basic Law explicitly states that each Legco term shall only last four years.

She stressed that the decision is entirely up to the NPCSC, but "If you ask me, I would say that a logical solution will be what is stated in section 11 of the Legislative Council Ordinance for emergency meetings... is to allow the preceding Legislative Council – that is the sixth term Legislative Council members – to come back and to continue their business – i.e. to extend the term of the sixth term Legislative Council by one year. But this is my personal view.”

Lam told a news conference the coronavirus outbreak remains too severe to hold the election as scheduled, and she is using a colonial-era emergency law to allow for the move.

She explained that this is the only practical option, noting that the Court of Appeal has already ruled that the ordinance does not breach the Basic Law.

"In these seven months [of fighting the pandemic], I've had to make some hard choices", Lam said. "But this announcement is the hardest one yet."

"To delay the Legco election is a very, very difficult decision, but to suppress the pandemic for public safety and to safeguard public health, while ensuring that the election is held in an open and fair manner... this decision is necessary."

The CE said the threat of a major outbreak is increasing, with record numbers of new coronavirus cases reported in recent days – many from unknown sources.

Holding the election as scheduled would have a 'great risk' of further spreading the infection, Lam said, as it would be impossible for some three million voters to maintain social distancing.

She also said many people who live overseas or on the mainland would not be able to come back to cast their vote because of anti-epidemic restrictions, and the gathering ban means candidates would not be able to campaign properly.

Lam also dismissed suggestions that Hong Kong should not delay the poll, because many other countries have successfully held their elections despite the pandemic.

She cited an overseas organisation which found that more countries and territories have postponed their elections from February to July, than those who went ahead with them. She noted in particular that both the UK and Australia are among countries that pushed back various polls due to the pandemic.

The CE stressed that there were "absolutely no political considerations" behind the decision.

"I've not looked at how the election is going. I'm just looking at the pandemic every day, I have no time to think about elections", she said.

Secretary for Justice Teresa Cheng stressed that the poll in 2021 will be an entirely new exercise. Those who have already submitted their nominations would get reimbursed after submitting their expenses, and all eligible candidates can apply to run.

News of the postponement comes one day after election authorities barred 12 pro-democracy figures from running in the 2020 poll, after judging that they could not genuinely claim to uphold the Basic Law.

Reasons for barring them include their alleged opposition to the national security law and support for self-determination for Hong Kong.

Four serving legislators are among those whose nominations were invalidated, which could put them in an awkward position if the NPCSC ultimately does decide on extending the term of the current Legco.

Lam said while this is a hypothetical situation that officials have not looked into yet, the government abides by the law, and there would have to be a solid legal basis for barring an incumbent from returning, even if they have been barred from running in the now-scrapped 2020 poll.

Twenty-two pro-democracy legislators had earlier on Friday issued a stern statement saying postponing the polls would be tantamount to a power-grab that would trigger a constitutional crisis and fundamentally shake the whole basis of the Hong Kong SAR.

They charge that the postponement is a conspiracy by the government and its supporters to use the coronavirus pandemic as an excuse to delay the poll, because they don’t expect to do well at the ballot box.

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Last updated: 2020-07-31 HKT 19:21