Hong Kong: Pro-Beijing authorities postpone elections and hunt down 6 Democrats who fled abroad
Parliamentary elections postponed for one year because of the coronavirus emergency. Democratic Front: An excuse to avoid a crushing defeat. Jurists question the legitimacy of the postponement. The crackdown continues: the police accuse six activists of violating the national security law. They include Nathan Law.
Hong Kong (AsiaNews / Agencies) - The city authorities have postponed parliamentary elections for a year and, according to press reports, are seeking the arrest of six pro-democracy activists sheltered abroad, accused of violating the new security law imposed by Beijing.
Carrie Lam, head of the local executive, yesterday announced the postponement of September election because of the Covid-19 emergency. She said that exposing millions of people including election officials and voters to the coronavirus threatens to overwhelm the public health system. The pro-establishment leader also justifies the move with the fact that some Hong Kong citizens are stuck in China and abroad because of the pandemic, and cannot return to vote.
Lam highlighted that the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress will establish how to manage the legislative "vacuum" in the interim period. However, several jurists question the legitimacy of the postponement.
The city government's decision has sparked protests from the democratic front, which in the Legco (the local parliament) represents 60% of the population. Democrats maintain that Lam is exploiting the pandemic as an excuse to avoid a crushing election defeat.
Immediately after the announcement, 22 democratic parliamentarians said they firmly opposed the postponement, inviting the executive to adopt health prevention measures to allow voting operations. The democratic forces believe a refusal to do so amounts to the destruction of the legal bases of the semi-autonomous territory. The democratic camp had already openly opposed the authorities for the July 30 disqualification of 12 of its candidates for the vote on September 6.
Democratic activists and several observers believe the adoption of security legislation has triggered a repressive crackdown. THe measure which entered into force on June 30 confers broad powers on the police to target activities who are deemed to threaten national security. The Chinese Communist Party claims to have imposed it to restore order; the anti-Beijing front, which for over a year has been demonstrating for democracy in Hong Kong and to safeguard its liberal system, instead accuses the Chinese leadership of wanting to stifle the aspirations of the population.
According to the South China Morning Post and CCTV (Chinese public television), the Hong Kong law enforcement agencies have issued an arrest warrant for six Democrats who live in exile abroad. They are accused of "inciting secession" and "conspiring with foreign forces". The security law contains "extraterritorial" provisions, which allow the police to prosecute citizens of Hong Kong in other countries even outside the borders of the former British colony.
Nathan Law, one of the promoters of Demosisto, the autonomist formation that dissolved immediately after the implementation of the security law, is among the six targeted by the police forces of the city. The others are Simon Cheng, a former British Consulate employee in Hong Kong; Samuel Chu, son of a Baptist minister among the promoters of the 2014 "umbrella movement"; and pro-independence activists Ray Wong, Lau Hong and Wayne Chan.