US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has urged Hong Kong to reverse a decision to suspend its legislative elections for a year amid a resurgence of the coronavirus, saying the delay would be another blow to its autonomy from Beijing.
In a statement published on Sunday morning, Pompeo condemned the decision by Hong Kong’s embattled leader Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor to invoke her emergency powers to postpone the Legislative Council elections – scheduled for September 6 – until September 5 next year.
“We urge Hong Kong authorities to reconsider their decision,” he said. “The elections should be held as close to the September 6 date as possible and in a manner that reflects the will and aspirations of the Hong Kong people.
“If they aren’t, then regrettably Hong Kong will continue its march toward becoming just another Communist-run city in China.”
The US has been particularly vocal in speaking out against the efforts by the Hong Kong government and Beijing to stamp out protests in the former British colony that have called for free and open elections and greater autonomy from Beijing.
As relations between Washington and Beijing have fallen to their lowest point in decades, the US has moved to end preferential treatment for Hong Kong over what it sees as an erosion of its autonomy and freedoms.
Beijing has repeatedly criticised the US – and Pompeo in particular – for what it sees as efforts to undermine its sovereignty over Hong Kong and interfere in its domestic affairs.
In his statement, Pompeo described the delay to the legislative vote as a “regrettable action” that made clear Beijing had no intention of granting Hong Kong citizens the universal suffrage outlined in the city’s mini-constitution, the Basic Law, or following the Sino-British Joint Declaration on the city’s governance after its return to Chinese control in 1997.
“There is no valid reason for such a lengthy delay,” he said. “It is likely, therefore, that Hong Kong will never again be able to vote – for anything or anyone.”
Hong Kong’s opposition lawmakers have also decried the election delay as a political move, with pro-democracy candidates expected to secure an unprecedented majority in the 70-seat legislature after dominating in the district council elections in November.
A day before the postponement was announced, election officials barred 12 opposition candidates from running, in some cases on the grounds of them previously supporting US sanctions on Hong Kong – which can now be considered an offence under the national security law.
On Sunday Pompeo also expressed concern about the mass disqualifications and the arrest of four students under the national security law, tweeting: “Beijing continues to break its promises and eviscerate Hong Kong’s autonomy.”
He also expressed support for Ecuador, which is on alert after the appearance of a large flotilla of Chinese fishing vessels.
The presence of around 260 boats has raised concerns that they will enter the islands’ unique and delicate eco-system and Pompeo called on Beijing to stop “illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing”.
On Friday, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany also condemned the postponement of the Hong Kong election and disqualification of opposition candidates, even after US President Donald Trump floated the idea to delay the US presidential election in November – something he does not have the power to do.
“This action undermines the democratic processes and freedoms that have underpinned Hong Kong’s prosperity,” she said.
“And this is only the most recent in a growing list of broken promises by Beijing, which promised autonomy and freedoms to the Hong Kong people until 2047 in the Sino-British Joint Declaration.”
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