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Hong Kong postpones elections over virus as China crackdown deepens

Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam speaks throughout a press convention on the authorities headquarters in Hong Kong on July 31, 2020. — AFP/ANTHONY WALLACE

HONG KONG: Hong Kong’s democracy supporters have been dealt an enormous blow Friday as authorities postponed native elections due to the coronavirus, capping a devastating month of political disqualifications, arrests for social media posts and activists fleeing abroad.

The metropolis’s democracy camp has come beneath sustained assault since Beijing imposed a sweeping nationwide safety regulation on town final month — a transfer China´s leaders described as a “sword” hanging over the pinnacle of its critics.

The ensuing weeks have radically reworked a metropolis used to talking its thoughts and supposedly assured sure freedoms and autonomy in a “One Country, Two Systems” deal agreed forward of its 1997 handover from Britain.

On Friday night chief government Carrie Lam, a pro-Beijing appointee, introduced that September elections for town’s legislature would have to be delayed.

She described the announcement because the “most difficult decision” she has made for the reason that pandemic started and that Beijing supported the transfer.

The resolution will infuriate democracy supporters who had warned in opposition to any strikes to delay the polls, accusing authorities of utilizing the pandemic to keep away from a drubbing on the poll field.

It additionally got here a day after a dozen distinguished democracy activists have been barred from standing for election as a result of their political beliefs have been deemed to be unacceptable.

“Our resistance will continue on and we hope the world can stand with us in the upcoming uphill battle,” Joshua Wong, one of many metropolis’s most recognisable democracy figures, advised reporters Friday earlier than the elections have been postponed.

Wong was a kind of disqualified, together with different younger firebrand activists and a few older, extra reasonable democracy campaigners.

“Beyond any doubt (this) is the most scandalous election fraud era in Hong Kong history,” stated the 23-year-old, wearing a T-shirt that learn “They can’t kill us all”.

Banned political beliefs

Hong Kong will not be a democracy — its chief is chosen by pro-Beijing committees.

But half of its legislature’s 70 seats are straight elected, providing town’s 7.5 million residents a uncommon likelihood to have their voices heard on the poll field.

Planning to capitalise on final 12 months’s big and sometimes violent anti-Beijing protests, democracy activists had been hoping to win their first-ever majority in September.

But officers have begun scrubbing poll lists of candidates.

Examples given by authorities of unacceptable political beliefs have included criticising a brand new safety regulation imposed by Beijing, campaigning to win a legislation-blocking majority and refusing to recognise China´s sovereignty.

Earlier within the day a coalition of democracy events warned any bid to delay the elections can be herald “the entire collapse of our constitutional system.

Around half of Hong Kong’s 3,100 COVID-19 circumstances have been detected previously month and authorities concern hospitals are on the verge of being overwhelmed.

According to the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance, no less than 68 elections worldwide have been postponed due to the virus, whereas 49 went forward.

New safety regulation

Hong Kong goes by means of its most politically turbulent interval since its return to Chinese rule, and final 12 months seven straight months of pro-democracy protests swept town.

The pandemic and mass arrests have helped throttle the motion, however anger in direction of Beijing nonetheless seethes.

In response, China imposed its safety regulation on June 30, bypassing the legislature and protecting the contents of the regulation secret till it was enacted.

Beijing stated the regulation would restore stability and never affect political freedoms.

It targets 4 varieties of crime — subversion, secession, terrorism and colluding with overseas forces — with as much as life in jail. But the broadly worded regulation immediately outlawed sure political beliefs corresponding to selling independence or better autonomy for Hong Kong.

One provision bans “inciting hatred” in direction of the federal government.

Critics, together with many Western nations, say it has demolished the “One Country, Two Systems” mannequin.

Since it got here into pressure, some political events have disbanded whereas no less than three distinguished Beijing critics have fled abroad.

Libraries and faculties have pulled books deemed to be in breach of the brand new regulation.

At least 15 arrests have been made to date.

On Wednesday 4 college students have been arrested beneath the brand new regulation for “inciting secession” by means of posts on social media. Others have been arrested for shouting pro-independence and different protest slogans, or possessing objects emblazoned with them. All have been bailed on Friday.

A person who allegedly drove his bike into a gaggle of law enforcement officials whereas flying an independence flag was the primary to be charged beneath the regulation, with terrorism and secession offences.

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