Chief Executive of Hong Kong, Carrie Lam, may cancel upcoming legislative council elections due to the city’s recent COVID outbreak wave, according to local media. But with pro-China politicians’ plummeting popularity and the United States attentively monitoring Hong Kong elections, critics suggest there may be more behind this decision than public health.
Jasper Tsang, the founding chair of pro-Beijing political party DAB, suggested last Saturday that the election could be delayed for a whole year. Local media, Hong Kong 01 revealed that the Hong Kong government intends to postpone the election for a year by submitting a resolution to China’s National People’s Congress.
For months, Hong Kong has been largely successful at preventing a mass CCP Virus outbreak. Coronavirus deaths remained at a record low of seven, and total cases hovered around 1,000.
But after a stretch of no local transmissions, Hong Kong is currently in its seventh consecutive day of daily triple-digit CCP Virus cases. The total number of infected people has tripled to 3,000, with deaths rising to 24 in the past week.
AsiaWorld-Expo, the original ballot-counting venue for elections, is being used as a community isolation facility. As is the back-up counting station, Kowloon Bay International Trade & Exhibition Centre. Yet, the government has not made any comments on whether it will make additional arrangements to prepare for the elections scheduled for Sept. 6.
Hong Kong pro-democracy leaders are calling the intent to push back elections due to COVID an excuse.
Lam’s approval ratings have plummeted since the pro-democracy protests last summer. According to a July poll conducted by the Hong Kong Public Opinion Research Institute, only 18 percent of Hong Kong people would vote for Carrie Lam to continue as Chief Executive. Her party’s popularity has also nosedived due to public blame for the National Security Law and the surge in local CCP Virus cases.
The Secretary for Food and Health, Sophia Chan, has conceded that there is “empirical evidence” that the government’s quarantine loophole led to the recent CCP Virus surge, in an interview with RTHK. Under the provision, certain people—including Chinese government officials, companies listed on Hong Kong stock exchange, and business owners—are exempt from CCP Virus quarantine.
Over 200,000 were exempted from compulsory CCP Virus quarantine per the Security Bureau in a report to Hong Kong’s Legislative Council.
Last month, Hong Kong’s democracy camp held its first-ever election primaries. Despite Beijing and the Hong Kong government warning against participation through the national security law, the turnout was over 600,000 Hong Kong residents.
Hong Kong’s legislators predict an un-interfered with election will likely produce a pro-democracy majority in the government for the first time in the city’s history. In the past, in a bid to prevent pro-democracy majorities, Beijing utilized tactics such as disqualifying candidates they deem dangerous to the ambitions of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).
In recent weeks, the United States has stepped its actions to counter threats posed by the CCP, including in response to Beijing’s tightening control over Hong Kong.
After the participation of over a half a million in the primary, Lam warned that democratic primary elections may have violated China’s new national security law. In response, U.S. Secretary of State Pompeo condemned Lam’s warning, and maintained that the United States will continue closely monitoring the fairness of Hong Kong elections.
After the passage of China’s National Security Law, the U.S. Congress passed a bipartisan bill, the Hong Kong Autonomy Act. It emphatically protects Hong Kong civil rights as an autonomous region of China through sanctions by the president.
President Trump also removed Hong Kong’s preferential trading status in response to Beijing’s imposition of the National Security Law.
It’s not only the United States that’s closely watching. The UK, New Zealand, Australia, Taiwan, and Canada, have all voiced their support for Hong Kong civil rights.