“There is no valid reason for such a lengthy delay,” Pompeo said in a statement issued on Aug. 1, emphasizing that Hongkongers have demonstrated their desire to hold free and fair elections in past decades.
While the city was slated to vote on Sept. 6, Hong Kong’s top official Carrie Lam announced on July 31 that the Legislative Council (LegCo) election would be postponed, claiming that gatherings of voters on polling day would threaten public health amid an uptick of CCP virus cases in the city.
City elections currently have electoral committee mechanisms in place that favor pro-Beijing candidates; pro-democracy protests in past years have called for universal suffrage.
Pompeo raised concerns that the Chinese-ruled city would “never again be able to vote–for anything or anyone” if Beijing continues to ignore its commitments as stipulated in the Sino–British Joint Declaration.
The treaty was signed in advance of Hong Kong’s transfer of sovereignty from British to Chinese rule in 1997, guaranteeing that the territory’s basic freedoms, as well as its separate political and economic systems, be preserved.
Pompeo urged Hong Kong authorities to allow the elections to proceed as close to the original timetable as possible.
“If they aren’t, then regrettably, Hong Kong will continue its march toward becoming just another Communist-run city in China,” he said.
A day before the postponement, the government disqualified 12 pro-democracy candidates from running, with the rationale that they’re unfit to uphold Hong Kong’s mini-constitution, the Basic Law, or loyalty to Hong Kong’s government under China.
City officials said activities that invalidated the candidates included promoting Hong Kong independence, supporting self-determination, and opposition to China’s national security law.
Beijing’s sweeping new law took effect on July 1, punishing activities deemed as secession, subversion of state power, terrorism, and colluding with foreign countries, with a maximum penalty of life in prison.
In mid-July, about 610,000 Hongkongers cast ballots in an unofficial primary to select the pro-democracy candidates they would like to see run against the pro-Beijing camp. The large turnout was also seen as a symbolic protest vote against the new security law.