The United States has condemned the Hong Kong government's decision to postpone the Legislative Council elections initially scheduled for September 6, 2020, for one year.
"There is no valid reason for such a lengthy delay," Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement Saturday, adding that "the elections should be held as close to the September 6 date as possible."
If elections are not held in "a manner that reflects the will and aspirations of the Hong Kong people," he said, the semi-autonomous city "will continue its march toward becoming just another Communist-run city in China."
Pompeo called the postponement a "regrettable action" which confirms Beijing's intention not to honor the Sino-British Joint Declaration, an UN-registered treaty, and the Basic Law, when Britain turned Hong Kong to China in 1997.
China's hand-picked Hong Kong leader, Carrie Lam, announced Friday that the city's September legislative election would be postponed for a year, because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The move is seen as a blow to the pro-democracy camp, which was widely expected to do well in the election.
Observers say the postponement was the latest in a series of moves by the government in recent days to thwart the pro-democracy movement.
Just recently, Hong Kong authorities fired two pro-democracy academics active in politics, arrested four young activists on national security charges and issued arrest warrants for six others, including a U.S. citizen, and disqualified 12 pro-democracy candidates for the legislative election.
The six have fled the territory and are wanted on suspicion of violating the national security legislation that entered into force a month ago.
Two prominent U.S. legislators, Congressman Eliot Engel, Chairman of the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee, and Senator Robert Menendez, the senior Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, issued a stern warning to China Friday, saying in a statement that "if Beijing thinks that this effort will silence those who stand for freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law, it is gravely mistaken: today we are all Hong Kongers."
"This action only further undermines the credibility of China as a responsible rule-abiding member of the international community," Engel and Menendez said.