Hong Kong is delaying its upcoming election by a full year.
Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam on Friday said the Legislative Council election that was scheduled to take place on Sept. 6 will be postponed due to coronavirus concerns, CNN reports. This comes as Hong Kong has seen its number of coronavirus infections rise after previously having no locally transmitted cases for weeks.
"It is a really tough decision to delay but we want to ensure fairness, public safety and public health," Lam said, per The New York Times.
But critics slammed the move and cast doubt on the reasoning behind it, with pro-democracy legislator Eddie Chu previously saying such a postponement would be a "strategic retreat" and arguing that the Chinese Communist Party simply wanted "to avoid a potential devastating defeat" from pro-democracy opposition candidates, per the Times.
Civic Party leader Alvin Yeung also told The Wall Street Journalthatthis move suggests the government is "trying to buy time" because "they foresee a landslide win for the democratic camp and they want to prevent that from happening." Chinese University of Hong Kong associate professor Ma Ngok told the Times the coronavirus explanation likely "won't be very convincing," though, as people in Hong Kong "are allowed to go to work, take the subway, take the bus, stand in long queues and then not allowed to vote?"
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had said this week that Hong Kong's elections "must proceed on time" and suggested that if they don't, this will "simply prove that the Chinese Communist Party has now made Hong Kong just another communist-run city." After President Trump on Thursday floated the idea of delaying the U.S. presidential election, Times reporter Daniel Victor wrote, "A lot of people's worst fear in the U.S. is actually happening in Hong Kong." Brendan Morrow