Hong Kong postpones Legislative Council election, citing COVID-19

Domestic News

Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam said she would postpone the upcoming Legislative Council election from September 6 this year to September 5, 2021. It was the latest blow to the pro-democracy opposition, who had hoped to win big in that election.

an illustration representing elections in hong kong being postponed amid covid-19
Illustration by Derek Zheng

In November 2019, right after Hong Kong’s most intense period of protests and clashes with police, Hongkongers showed up to the polls in record numbers and ushered in a landslide of pro-democracy candidates into district council posts.

  • This represented a strong rebuke to the government establishment led by Chief Executive Carrie Lam (林鄭月娥 Lín Zhèng Yuè’é), and an embarrassment for Beijing.

The next step for Hong Kong democrats, Ryan Tang wrote for SupChina, was to “make a serious play for the Legislative Council next year.”

But then, three key things happened:

Public health, or politics?

“There are absolutely no political considerations in these measures,” Lam insisted as she announced the postponement. “I’ve been so busy tracking the virus situation in recent days, I hardly have time to see how the election competition is going.”

Hong Kong does have a serious COVID-19 outbreak.

  • The city just reported 10 straight days of more than 100 infections, some of them untraceable.
  • Earlier this week, more than 78% of isolation beds in the city’s public hospitals were full, the BBC reported, and public gatherings were limited to just two people.

But elections elsewhere have taken place, even during the pandemic.

  • In total, at least 68 countries and territories have postponed elections due to COVID-19, while at least 49 have held elections as planned, according to statistics cited by the Wall Street Journal, which adds:

Public-health experts have said there is no justification for a year-long delay, pointing to measures that could mitigate risk, including social distancing at poll stations and staggered voting times. South Korea held national elections in April, and Singapore, another financial hub, held general elections earlier in July after a weekslong lockdown.

More on the election postponement: