A man wearing a face mask holds up a placard during a protest against Hong Kong’s deteriorating freedoms outside China’s embassy, in London, Britain, July 31, 2020. REUTERS/John Sibley

THE NEUTRAL ZONE

Legislative elections in Hong Kong were delayed on Friday for one year following concerns from Chief Executive Carrie Lam that rising COVID-19 cases could threaten public safety. While Lam said that elections could worsen the outbreak, pro-democracy politicians in the autonomous city say the move is another effort from Bejing to expand Chinese national powers and stymie democracy in Hong Kong. 

The pro-democracy opposition in Hong Kong was seeking a “historic majority” in the city’s Legislative Council, where only half the seats are directly elected. The election has grown in importance for the opposition since June 30, when China’s top legislature passed a sweeping national security law that tightens a variety of political freedoms. Some penalties are severe, such as life in prison for advocating for Hong Kong’s independence. 

Even so, Hong Kong’s Lam said as many as 3 million people could turn out to vote on Sept. 6 if elections remain in place, worsening the risk of spread. She also cited candidates’ difficulty in holding campaign events amid new outbreaks and challenges for those attempting to vote overseas despite travel restrictions. According to Reuters, at least 68 countries and territories have delayed local or national elections due to the coronavirus.

MEDIA PERSPECTIVE

White House ‘condemns’ election delay in Hong Kong after Trump raised idea of postponing US vote – USA TODAY – 7/31/2020. “We condemn the Hong Kong government’s decision to postpone for one year its legislative counsel elections,” White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said Friday. “This action undermines the democratic processes and freedoms that have underpinned Hong Kong’s prosperity.” McEnany’s remarks came a day after Trump drew fire from Republicans for raising the prospect of delaying the November election because of the COVID-19 pandemic and his unproven concerns about expanded mail-in voting.

Hong Kong teen activist Tony Chung bailed; told to remove social media posts within 72 hrs following security law arrest – Hong Kong Free Press – 7/31/2020. On Wednesday, the 19-year-old became the first political figure to be arrested on suspicion of inciting secession under the controversial legislation that also criminalises subversion, terrorist activities and collusion with foreign forces. Three other ex-members of Studentlocalism – aged 16 to 21 -were rounded up under the same alleged offence.

Hong Kong Is Keeping Pro-Democracy Candidates Out of Its Election – The New York Times – 7/29/2020. Officials on Thursday barred 12 candidates, including well-known pro-democracy figures, from the September legislative election. The disqualifications came a day after the police made what appeared to be the first targeted arrests of four activists accused of posting pro-independence messages online.

Many Hong Kongers are considering emigration – The Economist – 7/31/2020. The city’s reputation as a haven of free speech within China disappeared overnight, along with the “one country, two systems” framework set up in 1997. In 2014 Communist Party leaders waited for the protesters to lose steam. But by 2020 they had run out of patience.

INFLUENCER PERSPECTIVE

Senator Bob Casey on Twitter, 7/31/2020:  It’s a sad day for our democracy when one can draw obvious parallels between the oppression in Hong Kong, and President Trump’s America.

SCMP News on Twitter, 7/31/2020: After delaying Hong Kong’s Legco elections over Covid-19 risks, Carrie Lam says China’s top legislative body will decide how to fill the year-long gap

Stratfor – a RANE Company on Twitter, 7/31/2020: The #election delay appears to be an attempt to exhaust #HongKong’s #prodemocracy camp, though it may instead serve as a rallying point both domestically and internationally.

Uffe Elbaek on Twitter, 7/31/2020: In a way nothing really surprises me in this article from @nytimes. Because the Chinese Government has already shown its power face in the most ugly manner – again and again. But I will recommend that you read it anyway. #StandWithHongKong

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