Hong Kong’s chief executive Carrie Lam has postponed September’s local elections due to the rising number of coronavirus cases in the region.
Lam has said the election will be held on 5 September 2021, which will be a blow to the pro-democracy opposition looking to make gains.
The opposition was hoping to win a majority in the Legislative Council, where only half of the seats are directly elected. The other half is filled mostly by pro-Beijing candidates.
It comes after 12 pro-democracy candidates were disqualified from running in the election. This was due to perceived subversive intentions and opposition to the new security law.
The legislation punishes crimes of secession, subversion, terorrism and collusion with foreign forces.
Lam told reporters the decision was the most difficult she had made in seven months, but was aimed at safeguarding people’s health. She said she was invoking the Emergency Regulations Ordinance to push the elections back and that her decision was supported by central government.
It is the second time in a year Lam has invoked the law, which was first introduced under British colonial rule. She used it last October to ban protestors in masks hiding their identities during anti-government demonstrations.
She pointed to the decision to postpone an election in Britain in May by one year, and one in Australia.
“If we continue with our election, millions of voters will be visiting polling stations on the same day. The risk of infection would be very high.”
Hong Kong has reported more than 3,000 coronavirus cases since January, lower than most major cities. But over the past 10 days the territory has seen the number of new cases rise to triple-digits.
In response to the spike in infections, the government limited gatherings to two people.