Local council elections in Hong Kong last year saw a surge of pro-democracy winners, and opposition parties had hoped to claim a similar victory in this year's legislative elections set for Sept. 6. Those hopes will now have to wait: Hong Kong CEO Carrie Lam announced at a Friday news conference that the elections have been postponed for a full year due to the coronavirus pandemic, CNN and the AP report. "The announcement I have to make today is the most difficult decision I've had to make in the past seven months," Lam said, noting that the Chinese government stands behind her decision. The semi-autonomous city has had a recent surge of COVID-19 infections throughout July, with health officials warning that the outbreak needs to be brought under control. Lam said she was using a colonial-era emergency ordinance to make such a move, per the South China Morning Post.
"We want to ensure fairness and public safety and health," Lam said at the presser. But pro-democracy candidates see this as just another move to keep them from gaining further governmental control, especially considering a dozen of them were disqualified on Thursday from running, either for not pledging loyalty to local and national governments or for not adhering to the city's constitution. "This is the most scandalous election ever in Hong Kong history," pro-democracy activist Joshua Wong, one of the disqualified, told reporters Friday. A group of nearly two dozen lawmakers is also criticizing Lam's move, noting in a statement that they "collectively oppose the postponement and emphasize the responsibility of the [Special Administrative Region] government to make every effort to arrange adequate anti-epidemic measures to hold elections in September as scheduled." (Read more Hong Kong stories.)