• Hong Kong City Leader Carrie Lam said the city's council elections would be delayed nearly a year due to the recent rise in coronavirus cases
  • Hong Kong reported 149 new cases on Thursday, bringing the city's total number of cases to 3,422
  • The decision was met with criticism by pro-democracy advocates, who said it was an attempt to stifle momentum gained in the last year and the decision could spark a consitutional crisis

Hong Kong officials said Friday elections for the city’s legislative council would be delayed nearly a year from its original date on Sept. 6. The delay comes as the city reported 149 new confirmed coronavirus cases, alongside another 127 confirmed cases across mainland China.

As of Friday, there were 3,422 confirmed cases and 27 deaths from coronavirus in Hong Kong. Mainland China has reported 84,292 confirmed cases and 4,634 deaths from the pandemic.

The announcement by city leader Carrie Lam also followed news that 12 pro-democracy candidates had been disqualified from the upcoming election. While some come from Hong Kong’s traditional pro-democracy party, many are young activists like Joshua Wong, the former leader of the 2014 Umbrella Movement, who became more politically active during the pro-democracy protests over the last year. However, Hong Kong officials cited this activity as a primary reason for their disqualification.

Reasons listed for their disqualification included “advocating or promoting Hong Kong independence” or “refusal to recognise the PRC's exercise of sovereignty over the HKSAR and the HKSAR's constitutional status as a local administrative region of the PRC.”

“The HKSAR Government states that the nominations of these 12 nominees have been invalidated by Returning Officers since these nominations are not in compliance with the requirement under the Legislative Council Ordinance,” city officials said in a press release. “Returning Officers are still reviewing the validity of other nominations according to the laws. We do not rule out the possibility that more nominations would be invalidated.”

The disqualifications were criticized by Joshua Wong and other pro-democracy advocates, and that  has only been exacerbated by the decision to delay the election as they questioned the legality of the delay. Opponents to Carrie Lam said under local laws, the election could only be delay two weeks and anything longer could “trigger a constitutional crisis.”

Many also read it as an attempt to stifle the momentum the pro-democracy movement has gained in the last few years. Pro-democracy candidates gained massive ground during the 2019 district council elections, winning 17 of the 18 councils.