Former Legislative Council (LegCo) president Rita Fan has defended Chief Executive Carrie Lam’s decision to defer the 2020 legislative polls to September next year, saying there was “no choice” owing to the resurgence of coronavirus cases in the city.
In a 14-minute video posted on Lam’s Facebook page on Monday evening, the city’s leader asked Fan to comment on the the LegCo election postponement and the resulting lacuna in the legislature. The ex-Hong Kong delegate to the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress (NPCSC) supported Lam’s move and said there was “no other way” to handle the situation.
“You had no choice… If you hold the election and more people get infected – say several hundred or even a thousand – I don’t think anyone in Hong Kong could bear such responsibility,” Fan said, adding that “politics must not override human lives.”
Lam agreed: “If I persist wilfully and something bad happens, I will be culpable.”
The pro-Beijing heavyweight also backed Lam’s move to seek a decision from the Chinese legislative body regarding the interim LegCo conundrum. Fan said she believed the NPCSC would either clarify or supplement Article 69 of the Basic Law, which stipulates that each LegCo term should only have a duration of four years.
But Fan and Lam did not touch on whether the four pro-democracy legislators, who were disqualified from running in the 2021 LegCo election, could remain in office if the sixth council term was extended.
The election delay had been slammed by lawmakers of the pro-democracy camp, who said it was tantamount to “detonating a constitutional crisis.” They accused the authorities of not doing their utmost to prevent the outbreak and ensure the election could be held as scheduled.
“The government has made repeated mistakes in fighting the epidemic, and even tried to use it as an excuse to rudely seize citizens’ right to vote,” 22 democrats wrote in a joint statement last Friday.
They also opposed a decision coming from the NPCSC: “This is a complete collapse of the constitutional system.”
Responding to criticism, Lam hit out at “conspiracy theories” about her decision being based on fears that the pro-establishment camp would be defeated in the election. Fan told the embattled leader that it was inevitable for her to face “smearing” and rumours and she should not let speculation and criticism sway her decision.
She added that a minority of people like to be “alarmists” and try to “mislead” other citizens to garner political support: “You should not be afraid of smearing and rumours, do what you should do… Many people think you’ve made a mistake, but more people think you’ve done the right thing,” Fan said.