Elections postponed in Hong Kong, where crackdown on pro-democracy intensifies

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Hong Kong | The pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong took another slap in the face on Friday with the postponement of legislative elections due to coronavirus, at the end of a month marked by the disqualification of their candidates, the arrests of students and the departure into exile of figures from the ‘opposition.

• Read also: All developments in the COVID-19 pandemic

A year after unprecedented protests in the former British colony since its handover in 1997, the Chinese central power has undertaken a strong takeover of its semi-autonomous territory through a draconian law on national security imposed at the end of June.

Many opponents had presented it as the last nail in the coffin of the principle “One country, two systems”, which was supposed to guarantee until 2047 freedoms unknown elsewhere in mainland China.

The weeks that followed its adoption confirmed the brutal tension, with a crackdown on pro-democracy.

Friday evening, the head of the local executive Carrie Lam, who is appointed by Beijing, announced the postponement of the elections which were to allow in September to renew the Legislative Council (Legco, Parliament).

The “resistance” will continue

She spoke of “the most difficult decision” to take since the arrival in January of the pandemic in the city – which has known a clear increase in cases since the beginning of the month – adding that Beijing supported this initiative.

This decision will fuel the anger of the pro-democracy camp, which had ordered Ms. Lam not to use the pandemic to protect itself from a rout at the polls.

On Thursday, the authorities announced the invalidation of the candidacies of 12 pro-democracy activists in these elections.

“Our resistance will continue and we hope that the world will stand by our side in the battles to come,” Joshua Wong, who in 2014 was the face of the “Umbrella Movement”, said at a press conference on Friday morning. , and whose application was also rejected.

Dressed in a black t-shirt with the phrase “They can’t kill us all,” the 23-year-old activist blasted the disqualification of the 12 candidates.

“This is undoubtedly the most scandalous period of electoral fraud in Hong Kong’s history,” said the man whom the authorities had already prevented from running in the local elections in November, in which the pro-democracy camp had triumphed .


In a statement, the executive listed the reasons for the disqualifications, citing the fact that some candidates criticized the security law or refused to recognize Chinese sovereignty.

More ubiquitous, he criticized some for the fact that they intend to win a majority in LegCo.

The pro-democracy camp hoped to capitalize on the popularity of last year’s protest, and on its success in local elections in November, to obtain for the first time a majority in a chamber which is so composed that it normally leans almost automatically from the pro-Beijing side.

More than 600,000 Hong Kong people participated in the primaries organized by the pro-democracy camp in this city of 7.5 million inhabitants in mid-July, a consultation widely viewed as a great popular success.

Several local media had reported this week the executive’s intention to postpone the elections due to the recent increase in Covid-19 cases which has prompted authorities to significantly tighten restrictions.

“Constitutional collapse”

More than half of the 3,272 cases of coronavirus recorded in Hong Kong have been recorded since the beginning of July.

“It would be the total collapse of our constitutional system,” warned in a statement, before the announcement of the postponement, a coalition of Democratic parties.

After the 2016 elections, several pro-democracy elected officials were disqualified for having deliberately changed their swearing-in in order to demonstrate their hostility to China’s influence.

The invalidation of the candidatures fell less than 24 hours after the arrest Wednesday evening of four students, three men and a woman aged 16 to 21, former members of an organization advocating independence and recently dissolved.

These were the first arrests by the Hong Kong police unit created to enforce the law on security. The four were released on bail Friday.

The day before, the pro-democracy camp was moved by the dismissal by the University of Hong Kong of law professor Benny Tai who had been imprisoned in 2019 last year for his role in the “Umbrella Movement”.

A tireless advocate of non-violence, Mr. Tai had been one of the organizers of the pro-democracy primaries.

“The White Terror, the politics of fear are at work in Hong Kong,” denounced Thursday a companion of Joshua Wong, Nathan Law, who has gone into exile in London.

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