In three months, Hong Kong voters will go to the polls to choose who they want in their legislature, amid turmoil in which the current government struggles to buoy an economy in recession and deal with a political crisis that refuses to go away.
The government yesterday said Chief Executive Carrie Lam has specified that the Legislative Council (Legco) election – for its seventh term – will be held on Sept 6.
The nomination period is slated for July 18 to July 31, and its start date is also the day from which the sixth-term or current Legco will end parliamentary sessions.
Also, the High Court yesterday dismissed a legal challenge to a ban on individuals who have served jail terms of three months or more from running for public office for five years.
This was lodged by League of Social Democrats chairman Raphael Wong, who was jailed for eight months on incitement charges last year, for his role in the Occupy Central protests of 2014. He is barred from running in an election until 2024.
Justice Anderson Chow dismissed arguments that the threshold of a three-month prison sentence is too low, and that the disqualification period of five years from the date of conviction is too high.
“These are not matters of exact science, but are primarily matters of value judgment.
“Unless the lines as drawn are plainly unreasonable, the court should respect the judgment of the legislature, which is better placed than the court to assess where the lines should be drawn,” he said.
Mr Wong found the decision “regrettable” but will decide if he will appeal.
On Tuesday, the pan-democrats said contests to choose their candidates for the Legco election are to be held on July 11 and July 12.
The pan-democrats’ hopes of winning 35 or more of the council’s 70 seats were earlier buoyed by their landslide victory in the local district council election in November, but they are now worried Beijing’s decision to legislate the national security law for Hong Kong, of which details are not known yet, could be used against them.
COURT RESPECTS LEGISLATURE’S CALL
These are not matters of exact science, but are primarily matters of value judgment. Unless the lines as drawn are plainly unreasonable, the court should respect the judgment of the legislature, which is better placed than the court to assess where the lines should be drawn.
JUSTICE ANDERSON CHOW
Tensions in the city were renewed after Beijing two weeks ago approved a resolution to draft a national security law for Hong Kong, with hundreds marching on the streets in Central on Tuesday night despite police warnings. More than 50 people were arrested.
Political tensions aside, the city is also facing challenges from the coronavirus outbreak.
The government on Tuesday said it may ease border controls and social distancing measures as the infection rate has stabilised in the city, despite a recent local cluster. Yesterday, the health authorities said there were no new infections and the total confirmed cases stood at 1,107.
Asked how Hong Kong can conduct an election in the time of an outbreak, Professor Ben Cowling, an infectious disease expert from the Hong Kong University, said it is possible if the total number of cases remains low.
“Important modifications to the process should include increasing the space available for voting, increasing inter-personal spacing in queues, queueing in well-ventilated areas, and restricting the number of people in the voting hall at any one time as much as possible,” he said.