Hong Kong Chief Says Only Beijing Able to Resolve Legislative Limbo of Delayed Election
11:39 GMT 01.08.2020(updated 11:48 GMT 01.08.2020)
BEIJING (Sputnik) - Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam believes it's reasonable to extend the term of the current Legislative Assembly for a year as the legislative elections were postponed by over a year.
Lam added, however, that the ultimate ruling is up to the highest ordinance in China, the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress, a statement on the Hong Kong government website read.
Lam announced that the elections to the Legislative Assembly of the Special Administrative Region were postponed from September 6 of this year to September 5, 2021 due to the worsening epidemiological situation. The term of office of the current parliament expires on September 30 this year. Official Beijing supported this decision.
"About the possible 'lacuna', or what you call a 'vacuum' in the Legislative Council as a result of the postponement of the General Election scheduled on September 6, it is true that while we could use the Emergency Regulations Ordinance to postpone the LegCo Election by one year, we could not in the same regulation empower the continued operation of the Sixth Term Legislative Council because there is a Basic Law provision Article 69 which prescribes that every term of the Legislative Council, except the first term, should have a duration of four years," Lam said.
According to Lam's statement, the chief executive's office sent an urgent report to the central government for recommendations and guidance.
The Chinese State Council will seek the opinion of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPC) on appropriate recommendations for the Hong Kong administration. The meeting of the NPC Standing Committee is to be held from 8 to 11 August, but it is not yet known whether the issue of elections in Hong Kong is on the agenda of the upcoming meeting.
"I'm not in a position to tell you what that particular decision will be because it has not been said in the reply from the State Council given to me. But I'm sure that a solution could be found because the National People's Congress Standing Committee is the highest organ of power in the People's Republic of China and over the years, various decisions and interpretations have been made to address problems faced in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region," Lam said.
At the same time, Lam noted that, in her opinion, the logical decision would be to extend the term of the current Legislative Assembly.
"But this is my personal view as the Chief Executive. It's not the content of the decision to be made by the National People's Congress Standing Committee," Lam stressed.
The Legislature is Hong Kong's unicameral parliament with 70 members, 35 of whom are elected from territorial constituencies and 35 from functional constituencies. The powers of the current parliament are valid from October 1, 2016 to September 30, 2020.
The head of the Hong Kong administration assured that the postponement of the elections was not connected with any political motives, the decision was made solely due to the spread of COVID-19 in the highly-dense city. Protestations from opposition figures emerged almost immediately after the announcement on Friday, questioning the lengthy delay of over a year instead of some months.
But Lam herself explained that postponing the elections for several months is impossible since the preparation will take a long time. If, for example, the elections were postponed until next March, this, she said, could disrupt the legislative body's annual practice of checking the state budget for the second quarter.
However, this did not in any way reassure the opposition candidates, who had hoped to win the majority of seats in the upcoming elections. Even before Carrie Lam's statement, pro-democracy activists said that postponing the elections would be tantamount to undermining the legal foundations of the city, and a request to Beijing to intervene in the situation could mean a complete collapse of the constitutional order of Hong Kong.
Earlier in the week, the Hong Kong electoral committee suspended 12 candidates who did not meet the legal requirements from the upcoming elections to the Legislative Assembly. Among the suspended candidates are prominent opposition figures and activists, including Joshua Wong.
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