Hong Kong Legislative Council Photo: Wikimedia Commons

China’s National People’s Congress (NPC) standing committee has extended by at least a year the terms of all current Legislative Council members in Hong Kong after LegCo elections were postponed until September of next year amid the epidemic.

But the standing committee did not decide whether four Civic Party lawmakers who were barred from running in the September 6 election this year could extend their terms.

Tam Yiu-chung, the sole Hong Kong representative on the committee, said Tuesday the decision should not be made by the committee because the Hong Kong government could handle it.

Last week, Tam told media that there would be conflicts if those who were disqualified from running in the LegCo election were allowed to extend their terms between October 2020 and September 2021.

On August 4, Jasper Tsang, the former president of LegCo and a pro-Beijing heavyweight, said whether any of the current lawmakers would lose their seats in the coming year would be decided by the court.

On July 30, Civic Party lawmakers Dennis Kwok, Alvin Yeung, Kwok Ka-ki and Kenneth Leung were among 12 people barred from taking part in LegCo elections in September. On July 31, the Hong Kong government postponed the elections for a year due to a sharp increase in local infections.

The government also asked the NPC standing committee to decide whether all the current LegCo members could have their terms extended and whether the next Legco term would be three or four years.

In a joint statement on Sunday, five-eyes countries made up of the United States, Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand called on Hong Kong to hold the LegCo elections and reinstate the disqualified candidates.

“We call on the Hong Kong government to reinstate the eligibility of disqualified candidates so that the elections can take place in an environment conducive to the exercise of democratic rights and freedoms as enshrined in the Basic Law,” they said.

On Monday, Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesman Zhao Lijian said in Beijing that China deplored and rejected the statement, saying that they were politicizing the delay of the LegCo elections in the Hong Kong and interfering in China’s internal affairs.

Last Friday, the US Treasury Department said it was freezing US assets of Chief Executive Carrie Lam and 10 other senior officials, including Luo Huining, the head of the Liaison Office. It is expected that the US will announce another sanctions list as soon as Friday to punish those who undermined Hong Kong’s freedom and democracy.

Pan-democrats had threatened to resign together and boycott the temporary LegCo if the Hong Kong and central governments decided to disqualify any of them.

Lau Siu-kai, vice-president of the Chinese Association of Hong Kong and Macau Studies, said the decision by the NPC standing committee to extend the terms of all the lawmakers without disqualifying any of them was aimed at reducing disputes and letting Hong Kong focus on anti-epidemic and economic matters.

Lau said the decision showed that Beijing did not mind letting the opposition camp stay in the LegCo chamber. He said Beijing did not make the decision because of pressure from the US or the opposition camp in Hong Kong.

Read: HK democrats lose veto power as election delayed