Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam has announced that the city’s legislative elections will be delayed for a year due to a resurgence of the COVID-19 virus.

The announcement was made at a press conference on July 31. It was covered by the South China Morning Post (SCMP), CNBC, and other news organizations. The postponement of the elections came one day after the government's widely reported decision to disqualify pro-democracy figures from running as candidates.

Lam said that she was legally using emergency powers and that the national government of mainland China had agreed with her decision, the SCMP noted.

Lam added that the election, which had been scheduled for September 6, 2020, would be held on September 5, 2021, according to CNBC.

COVID-19 in Hong Kong

Lam told the press that a resurgence of the COVID-19 virus was the main reason for her postponement of the elections to the city's Legislative Council (Legco). The laws of Hong Kong [VIDEO] allow the chief executive to postpone elections if the public’s safety would be endangered, according to CNBC.

Lam was quoted by the SCMP as saying the postponement of the elections was the most difficult decision she had made since the virus came to Hong Kong seven months ago. She said, "We need to be on high alert all the time and respond," according to the SCMP.

Reactions inside and outside of Hong Kong

CNBC noted that before the July 31 announcement there had been suspicions that the government would put off the elections. On July 30, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called for the elections to be held without delay, CNBC recalled.

Joshua Wong, one of the pro-democracy activists who had been disqualified from running in the election, rejected the government’s claims to be acting out of concern for public safety.

“Using pandemic as an excuse to postpone the election is definitely a lie,” he said in a post on Twitter which was quoted by CNBC.

A group of 22 pro-democracy politicians released a statement that was quoted in the SCMP.

The statement claimed that despite the COVID-19 virus 60 countries or localities around the World had managed to hold elections on schedule or with a slight delay, the SCMP said. For her part, Lam asserted that more than 60 governments had delayed elections since July 15, the SCMP reported.

Hong Kong turns to Beijing

CNBC noted that the September 6 election would have been the first time Hongkongers had gone to the polls since the new national security law went into effect on June 30. There had been fears that the law would stifle democratic opposition to the government, CNBC recalled.

At her press conference, Lam said the postponement of the elections had raised unresolved legal questions which would be settled by the National People’s Congress Standing Committee in Beijing, the SCMP noted.