Hong Kong’s democratic activists are calling on the territory’s government to resume the Legislative Council elections as soon as possible due to an easing of the epidemic in the city.
Elmer Yuen, a retired Hong Kong entrepreneur and a pro-democracy activist, started an online petition titled “Support Hong Kong to Restart a Clean 2020 Legislative Council Election NOW” on August 29 and gathered more than 100,000 signatures in two days.
Yuen said he understood that the Hong Kong government would not resume the postponed elections but it did not mean that pro-democracy people should stay silent and accept that reality.
“With the 100,000 signatures, I will discuss with the politicians in the United States about how the LegCo elections should be restarted,” said Yuen, who was in the US for several months to persuade the US government to impose sanctions on Hong Kong and Beijing officials.
Yuen said if Beijing seeks talks this month, Washington should help Hong Kong fight for the immediate resumption of the LegCo elections.
Yuen’s call came after the epidemic situation improved over the past week. On Monday, only nine cases – two imported and seven local infections – were recorded in Hong Kong. On Tuesday, a total of 12 cases – three imported and nine local infections – were reported.
On Monday, the Education Bureau (EDB) announced its plan to resume face-to-face classes by the end of September. First, fifth and sixth grades of local secondary and primary schools and upper kindergarten grades will resume classes on September 23. Initially, schools will only have classes for half the day.
The remaining, including the second through fourth grades of secondary and primary schools, as well as lower kindergarten grades, will resume classes on September 29.
Education Secretary Kevin Yeung said to prepare for the resumption of classes, schools can allow some children to return to the campus for classes from September 16. The number will be capped at one-sixth of the student population.
Many netizens said it was unreasonable that students could return to their classrooms from September 23 while voters were not allowed to elect their legislators.
On Monday, four members of the League of Social Democrats (LSD) held a protest outside the central government’s liaison office in Hong Kong to demand universal suffrage and mark the sixth anniversary of an electoral reform move that allowed Beijing to screen candidates in the Chief Executive election. The reform package was vetoed by pan-democrats in the LegCo in 2015.
The four also accused the government of using the epidemic as a pretext to postpone the Legco elections. They said the elections should be resumed immediately.
They were surrounded by 30 police officers and were fined HK$2,000 (US$258) each for violating the social distancing rules.
On Tuesday, Chief Executive Carrie Lam said LegCo elections had already been postponed for one year while the incumbent lawmakers were allowed to extend their terms. She said it was not easy to organize an election as it involved a lot of preparation work.
Meanwhile, Lam urged the public to participate in the universal coronavirus tests, which kicked off on Tuesday. She said the Hospital Authority Employees Alliance, which called for a boycott of the tests, should urge the public not to turn their backs on the programme because it would be beneficial to the community as a whole.
Prior to this, a number of pro-democracy groups, district councillors and activists on Sunday urged Hong Kong people to boycott the tests, warning that the programme could do more harm than good.
Winnie Yu of the Hospital Authority Employees Alliance said the tests might not actually be that effective in identifying hidden carriers in the community and they could give people receiving a false-negative result a false sense of security.
The government said the testing scheme was off to a good start, with 126,000 people tested on Tuesday. Patrick Nip, the secretary for the Civil Service, said things went smoothly at 141 testing centers across the city on day one of the scheme.