OPINIONS Observer: Postponing LegCo election in order to fight pandemic a responsible choice

OPINIONS

Observer: Postponing LegCo election in order to fight pandemic a responsible choice

By Xu Xing | People's Daily app

08:10, August 01, 2020

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"Life comes first. If you risk people’s lives, how can Hong Kong go on in the future?" The pandemic in Hong Kong is getting grimmer, with the number of daily new cases surpassing 100 for 10 consecutive days. 

With the increasing risk of a major outbreak, people from all walks of life have called for a postponement for the Legislative Council (LegCo) election. On July 31, after a careful assessment on the impact of the pandemic, the government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) made a decision to move back the seventh LegCo election for one year in accordance with the law.
"This decision is the most difficult one since the pandemic outbreak seven months ago,”  said HKSAR Chief Executive Carrie Lam. It is not hard to understand how tough the decision was.

The latest outbreak in Hong Kong is fierce. A number of medical experts have judged that the possibility of the epidemic coming to an end in a short period is "almost zero." 

From July 8 to 30, 1,852 new cases had been reported in the city, far exceeding the 1,300 accumulated cases in the past six months. Various industries and districts were impacted. Ninety percent of the new cases were local infections. The source is unknown for nearly half of the cases. Fighting the pandemic in Hong Kong is now at the most critical moment.
Amid such a public health crisis, if we hold the LegCo election and carry out activities such as canvassing, campaigning and voting, it will certainly lead to large-scale gatherings, resulting in the rapid spread of the virus, undermining all previous efforts to fight the epidemic and putting public health at severe risk.

Previously, the opposition ignored the pandemic and carried out illegal gatherings and illegal "primaries," which have aggravated the risk of spreading the virus. This mistake, which came at a huge price, must not be repeated. 

The postponement of the election and giving priority to the fight against the pandemic have shown the HKSAR government’s responsible attitude toward public health and safety.

It’s necessary to use extraordinary measures to counter this extraordinary crisis. Although the decision was made due to a raging pandemic, it has sufficient legal basis and is in line with the constitution, the Basic Law and Hong Kong local laws. 

Given the severe pandemic and public health situation, in order to prevent the virus from further spread caused by large-scale gatherings, the chief executive’s decision to postpone the election by invoking the Emergency Regulations Ordinance is timely and serious. It will safeguard public health and safety, and ensure the justice and fairness of the election.

It’s common practice around the world to postpone elections in the case of natural disasters, turmoil, wars or pandemics. According to statistics of the IDEA, at least 68 countries and regions around the globe decided to delay their national or local elections due to the COVID-19 pandemic between February 21 and July 26. For example, local and mayoral elections in 118 English councils, including the election of the London mayor, have been postponed for a year to May 2021.

“Lives first and people first” is the paramount principle to fight the COVID-19 pandemic in the Chinese mainland. This principle has been upheld unswervingly no matter how dangerous the virus is and what kind of price has to be paid so that the pandemic has been contained rapidly. 

Now with the lives and security of Hong Kong citizens threatened, the HKSAR government has also demonstrated such a spirit to protect the lives and health of its citizens at any cost. At any time, the great motherland has always provided strong backing for Hong Kong to overcome the pandemic and any crisis that follows. 

The central government fully understands and supports the HKSAR government’s postponement of the 2020 LegCo General Election, and will provide all necessary support and assistance to help the SAR in the anti-virus fight.

The LegCo election aims to select those who can represent Hong Kong citizens and advance their well-being. Harming the lives and health of every Hong Kong citizen for the sake of elections is putting the cart before the horse. The most important thing is to protect people. Fighting the pandemic in a consensual way and overcoming this crisis is the overriding task in Hong Kong right now.

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