Hong Kong delays assembly election amid rise in COVID-19 cases

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern

READ MORENew Zealand suspends Hong Kong extradition treaty over China's controversial national security law

The decision was aimed at safeguarding people's health, she said.

Other opposition leaders demanded last week to know the government's firm plans for holding the September 9 election, suspecting it would be postponed after the unexpectedly large turnout for unofficial pro-democracy primaries in July.

Prominent pro-democracy activist Tiffany Yuen from the political organisation Demosisto, incumbent lawmaker Dennis Kwok and three others from the pro-democracy Civic Party were also disqualified.

"Otherwise, it is tantamount to uprooting the foundation of the establishment of the SAR".

Hong Kong has seen a surge in infections since the beginning of July but has still recorded a relatively low tally of infections overall. Despite the government's warning and scorching heat, almost 6 lakh people voted in this election.

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Several letters posted by disqualified candidates from returning officers informing them of their decision cited previous opposition to the security law as a reason for the move.

The Chinese Communist Party claims to have imposed the law to restore order; by contrast, the anti-Beijing front, which has been demonstrating for the past year to protect Hong Kong's democracy and more open system, accuses China's leaders of trying to stifle the population's aspirations.

Pro-democracy protesters have sparred with police in violent clashes in the months leading up to the elections, leading to over 8,000 arrests since June 2019.

"After a year of democratic movement, it is urgent for Legco to undergo a baptism of public opinion, which is the root of the city's governance", the group said. This has heightened fears that Beijing is stripping away the freedoms that Hong Kong has enjoyed.

Hong Kong returned to Chinese rule in 1997 under a guarantee of autonomy but critics say the new law undermines the Chinese-ruled city's high degree of autonomy and puts it on a more authoritarian path.

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It is clear they have been disqualified due to their political views, undermining the integrity of One Country, Two Systems and the rights and freedoms guaranteed in the Joint Declaration and Hong Kong's Basic Law.

Since entering Hong Kong six years ago, Uber has faced strong resistance from local policy stipulating that drivers must obtain a hire-car permit before using their private vehicles to transport passengers for profit.

The elections, originally slated for early September, were highly contentious as the opposition camp of pro-democracy candidates was poised to win a majority in the 70-seat legislative council after sweeping local district elections a year ago.

Friday's statement came as the New York- based Human Rights Watch (HRW) contacted federal governments all over the world to enforce sanctions on Hong Kong and Chinese authorities accountable for enforcing the nationwide security law on Hong Kong and to decline ask for cooperation under the law.

"I wish to emphasise that no reasonable man would think that this election ban is not politically driven".

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Lam is reported to have said that the Covid-19 situation in Hong Kong was at its worst, and that Beijing had given her the green light to implement the precautionary measures.

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