Swiss ‘concerned’ by Hong Kong election delay

Police detain a person during a pro-democracy rally in Hong Kong on June 28. The Swiss foreign ministry is closely monitoring the impact of the security law on the civil liberties of Hong Kong citizens and on the interests of Swiss citizens and companies. Keystone

The Swiss foreign ministry has said it is concerned about the postponement of the Hong Kong parliamentary elections and the disqualification of certain candidates.

This content was published on August 4, 2020 - 09:32

The adoption of the new security law shows the limits of the autonomy of the Special Administrative Region, the ministry said in a statement to the Keystone-SDA news agency on Monday.

The ministry said it had repeatedly stressed the importance of democratic debate and the maintenance of the “one country, two systems” principle in Hong Kong. Most recently, it had also done so to the Chinese ambassador in Bern.

It stressed that electing representatives to the Legislative Council, the Hong Kong Parliament, is a key element in this process. “Switzerland calls on the Hong Kong authorities to hold the elections as soon as the public health situation permits,” it said.

The foreign ministry also said it was continuing to closely monitor the impact of the security law on the civil liberties of Hong Kong citizens and on the interests of Swiss citizens and companies there.

Switzerland’s mutual legal assistance agreement with Hong Kong contains only so-called accessory legal assistance, the ministry said. Extradition is explicitly excluded. In addition, the treaty provides grounds for excluding mutual legal assistance, for example if the request concerns a criminal offence of a political nature.

First official vote

On Friday Hong Kong’s leader Carrie Lam postponed the election for the Legislative Council, citing public health dangers in the Chinese-ruled city, but said there were political considerations.

The poll would have been the former British colony’s first official vote since Beijing imposed a sweeping security law to tackle what China broadly defines as secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces, with punishment of up to life in prison.

Electoral rules in Hong Kong only allow votes to be postponed for 14 days, but colonial-era laws give the government broad powers in case of threats to public safety.

The delay came after 12 pro-democracy candidates were disqualified from running for perceived subversive intentions and opposition to the security law, prompting questions among many about whether the pandemic was the real reason for the delay.

The pro-democracy opposition was hoping to win a historic majority in the legislature after an overwhelming win in lower level district council polls last year.

Hong Kong, a former British colony, was handed over to Chinese control in 1997.

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