HONG KONG -- Coronavirus risks mean elections set for September have to be delayed a year, said Hong Kong's chief executive on Friday, even as opposition activists said authorities are only worried about control of its "puppet parliament."
Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam said the postponement of the September 2020 Legislative Council (LegCo) elections was due to the seriousness of Hong Kong's third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, which she said showed no sign of easing up.
"The epidemic is posing a serious risk to Hong Kong. The election is unique, the biggest in Hong Kong," Lam said. Carrying through with it would pose a risk to a great number of people, she argued.
But members of the opposition said they only see an effort to take away the chance to vote.
"Clearly it is the largest election fraud in (Hong Kong's) history," tweeted activist Joshua Wong. "Beijing is staging multiple acts to prevent the opposition bloc from taking the majority in LegCo."
He noted that hundreds of thousands of Hong Kong residents had shown a desire to vote and that this was the central government's attempt to shut them down.
"They could disqualify us, arrest us, throw us into jail, or even call off the election and create a puppet parliament elsewhere," he wrote.
"Our voice is clear and loud to the world, we stand to defend our freedom."
Lam said she had sought "advice and guidance" from the Central People's Government (CPG) on Wednesday.
In a statement the CPG said it would "provide all necessary support and assistance in accordance with the needs of the HKSAR (Hong Kong Special Administrative Region) in battling the epidemic."