People wearing face masks walk in the Central area of Hong Kong, south China, July 27, 2020. (Xinhua/Wang Shen)
HKSAR government officials said the postponement is well justified in terms of the risk of massive scale gatherings, absence of stranded voters overseas and in Chinese mainland and elderly voters reluctant to go out and vote due to the COVID-19 epidemic.
HONG KONG, Aug. 2 (Xinhua) -- Top officials of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) government on Sunday said the postponement of the 2020 Legislative Council (LegCo) General Election of the HKSAR is well justified and in the public interest.
Chief Executive of the HKSAR Carrie Lam on July 31 announced the postponement of the election, which was originally scheduled for Sept. 6, 2020, due to the current COVID-19 outbreak.
Chief Secretary for Administration of the HKSAR government Matthew Cheung said in his blog on Sunday that it was a very difficult decision to postpone the election, but it was necessary to protect the public's health and to ensure the election to be conducted openly and fairly.
A staff member demonstrates protective measures at the personal protective equipment (PPE) gown up area of a makeshift hospital for COVID-19 patients at the AsiaWorld-Expo in south China's Hong Kong on Aug. 1, 2020. (Xinhua/Wu Xiaochu)
Cheung said that the LegCo General Election is massive in scale with over three million voters likely to participate in the event, which would cause a very high risk of infection. Under the existing regulation to prohibit group gatherings, it would be difficult for candidates to carry out any meaningful rallying activities.
Furthermore, a large number of voters are stranded in the Chinese mainland and overseas due to the epidemic, and would not be able to return to Hong Kong in view of the border control measures. Elderly voters may also refrain from voting amid the severe epidemic situation due to their higher risks of infection.
If the election is held as scheduled, it will be difficult for the election to be a fair and open one. It may also undermine the safety of the voters, the candidates and their supporters as well as the polling staff, Cheung added.
Cheung stressed that the current wave of the epidemic was likely to last for weeks or even longer, and there might also be a winter surge.
People wearing face masks take a bus in the Central area of Hong Kong, south China, July 27, 2020. (Xinhua/Wang Shen)
He said the LegCo performs important and substantive functions and has an annual business cycle, and the preparation work and the voter registration exercise would take months before an election can be held, which makes it reasonable to postpone it for a year.
Financial Secretary Paul Chan said in his blog that prevention and control of the epidemic are very important as they are related to people's health and lives and should not be hindered by political disputes. He urged everyone to put aside their differences and work together to contain the epidemic.
Chan stressed that the HKSAR government's priority is to combat COVID-19, and at the same time, to ensure people's well-being and stabilize the economy. He believed that once the epidemic is brought under control in Hong Kong, the huge market of the mainland and the potential of the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area will help Hong Kong's economy to fast recover.■