Politicians from the pro-democracy and pro-establishment camps have opposite views about whether Hong Kong should postpone the Legislative Council election, set for September 6, due to the Covid-19 epidemic.
Tam Yiu-chung, the sole representative from Hong Kong on China’s National People’s Congress (NPC) standing committee, said the government should postpone the LegCo election as the epidemic situation had been getting worse this month.
Tam said elderly people would not go to vote out of fear of being infected. He said many elderly people had migrated to live in the Greater Bay Area and would prefer not to return to Hong Kong to vote, given that the city implemented a 14-day quarantine requirement for incoming travelers.
Tam denied criticism that the pro-establishment camp was afraid of losing the election. He said Hong Kong’s economy would suffer if the epidemic was out of control.
Stanley Ng Chau-pei, a Hong Kong pro-Beijing politician and the President of the Hong Kong Federation of Trade Unions, said the government should do more to ensure the coming LegCo election would be fair, while voters would be safe amid the epidemic.
According to the Legislative Council Ordinance, the Chief Executive may adjourn the polling or counting of votes in a general election if the polling or counting of votes was likely to be or is being obstructed, disrupted, undermined or seriously affected by riots or violence or any danger to public health or safety. The election should take place within the following 14 days.
Tanya Chan, a Civic Party lawmaker and the convenor of the pan-democratic camp in Legco, said the pro-establishment camp was urging the postponement of the LegCo election as they knew they would lose. Chan said many places, including Queensland in Australia, South Korea and Singapore, had run their elections amid the pandemic earlier this year.
On Sunday, Chief Executive Carrie Lam said the government had not yet decided whether the LegCo election should be postponed. She said no one could predict what the pandemic in Hong Kong would be like in September.
Hong Kong’s Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Bureau said it would monitor the situation with health officials and determine how the LegCo election would be affected.
Hong Kong’s democrats aimed to win more than 35 seats in the LegCo in the election in September to gain control of the legislative body.
On July 11 and 12, more than 610,000 people participated in primary elections for pro-democracy candidates. Beijing criticized the primaries for allegedly violating the national security law as some of the candidates had proposed to disrupt the government’s operations by vetoing proposed budgets.
A commentary by Xinhua News Agency also said participants in the primaries should be blamed for spreading the virus at the polls and causing the latest outbreaks in Hong Kong.
The central government’s Liaison Office has previously said that candidates who support Hong Kong independence should be disqualified from the LegCo election. Mike Pompeo, the United States’ Secretary of State, said the US would closely monitor whether Hong Kong’s LegCo election was fair and transparent.
Ho Pak-leung, the head of the University of Hong Kong’s Centre for Infection, said the risks of the virus spreading among voters at the polls would be small as there had not been any patient who was infected after queuing up on a street.
Ho said many of the identified patients were infected when they took off their masks during social gatherings. Ho added that extending the voting time and improving the people flow management would help reduce the risks of virus transmission.
If the number of local infections continued to grow, it would be good to cancel events with crowds, Chuang Shuk-kwan, head of the communicable disease branch of the Centre for Health Protection, said in a media briefing on Tuesday.
The Centre for Health Protection said Tuesday that Hong Kong had 61 confirmed cases, including three imported cases, 33 that could be linked to previous cases and the remaining 25 from unknown sources, within 24 hours on Monday.
Many patients were infected at social gatherings including wedding banquets, parties and table-tennis games.
Among the cases with unknown sources, a 64-year-old woman, who had provided escort services for out-patient visits to seven elderly people two days ago, was found to be infected.
Chuang said more than 60 preliminary confirmed cases were recorded on Tuesday. According to local media reports, these patients included a 35-week pregnant woman and a barrister surnamed Lee who had been to the District Court in Wan Chai on July 16.