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Hong Kong election delay could drain democracy of substance

This editorial appeared in The Japan News.

A precious opportunity to demonstrate the will of the public will regarding the "Chinafication" of Hong Kong has been postponed. It is feared that democracy will lose its substance, coming to exist there in name only.

The Hong Kong government has announced the postponement of the Legislative Council election scheduled for September by one year. Citing the growing novel coronavirus infections as a reason, Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam said that a safe and fair election cannot be held. China has expressed its stance to accept the postponement.

In Hong Kong, the number of infected people has been on the increase. However, it is impossible to accept the explanations of the Chinese and Hong Kong governments at face value.

The biggest point of contention in the election was to have been the propriety of the national security law, which China put into force beyond Hong Kong's reach. Pro-democracy lawmakers and candidates are opposed to the law, which regulates anti-government movements. In the primary to narrow down the list of pro-democracy candidates, 610,000 people, far more than expected, participated. The Hong Kong government may have decided to postpone the election out of fear that public opposition to the law would erupt and the pro-democracy candidates would win.

The pro-democracy groups are protesting, saying that the Hong Kong government used the coronavirus politically to save pro-China groups. A survey found 55% of respondents opposed postponement.

Before the postponement, among pro-democracy group members who had filed to run, 12 had their candidacies nullified on grounds such as that they opposed the national security law. By the time the election takes place, pro-democracy candidates could be cleared away and all the candidacies could be occupied by pro-China candidates.

Six pro-democracy activists staying abroad to escape the crackdown in Hong Kong were put on the wanted list for "collusion with a foreign country or with external elements to endanger national security." Four activists who posted "Hong Kong independence" on the internet were arrested for fanning support for secession from the country.

Aware of the national security law, Hong Kong media began to restrain criticism of authorities. Books by pro-democracy activists have been removed from libraries and schools.

The Hong Kong government should realize that the more strongly it oppresses the pro-democracy movements, the less persuasive its claim of postponing the election due to the coronavirus becomes.


The Day editorial board meets regularly with political, business and community leaders and convenes weekly to formulate editorial viewpoints. It is composed of President and Publisher Tim Dwyer, Editorial Page Editor Paul Choiniere, Managing Editor Tim Cotter, Staff Writer Julia Bergman and retired deputy managing editor Lisa McGinley. However, only the publisher and editorial page editor are responsible for developing the editorial opinions. The board operates independently from the Day newsroom.


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