Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam aborts policy speech as lawmakers disrupt session

Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam aborts policy speech as lawmakers disrupt session

Hong Kong's Chief Executive Carrie Lam leaves in the middle of her annual policy address
Hong Kong's Chief Executive Carrie Lam (C) leaves in the middle of her annual policy address due to disruptions by pro-democracy lawmakers in the Legislative Council (Legco) in Hong Kong on Oct 16, 2019. (Photo: AFP/Anthony Wallace) 

HONG KONG: Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam was forced to abandon her annual policy address on Wednesday (Oct 16) after some lawmakers jeered as she began speaking, causing an unprecedented cancellation of such a speech in the legislature of the Chinese-ruled city.

The lawmakers yelled "five demands, not one less" as they heckled Lam, who faces immense pressure to regain trust and resolve the city's biggest political crisis in decades, in a disruption that forced the meeting to be adjourned twice.

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The expression has become one of the movement's rallying calls, referring to protesters' five main demands, which include universal suffrage and an independent inquiry into what they say has been excessive force by police in dealing with demonstrations.

Some of the lawmakers wore masks of Chinese President Xi Jinping inside the chamber as they held up posters calling for the five demands to be met.

Pro-democracy lawmakers wearing masks with the image of China's President Xi Jinping
Pro-democracy lawmakers wearing masks with the image of China's President Xi Jinping disrupt proceedings during the annual policy address of Hong Kong's Chief Executive Carrie Lam, Oct 16, 2019. (Photo: AFP/Anthony Wallace)

Legislator Tanya Chan said Lam was to blame for causing Hong Kong’s chaos and suffering over the past four months.

"Both her hands are soaked with blood,” an emotional Chan told a news conference after the policy session.

"We hope Carrie Lam withdraws and quits. She has no governance ability … she is not suitable to be chief executive."

Security was very tight ahead of Lam's third policy address, with riot police stationed outside and water cannon on standby.

The address is an annual speech at the opening of the city's legislature where the pro-Beijing leader lays out policies and Bills for the year ahead. 

She eventually delivered her address over a video feed, announcing measures aimed at easing a housing shortage, including increasing the number of housing projects and accelerating the sale of public housing schemes.

READ: Embattled Hong Kong leader unveils measures to ease housing crunch

At a briefing on Tuesday, Lam stuck to her oft-repeated stance that bending to violent demonstrations would be unacceptable.

"For concessions to be made simply because of escalating violence will only make the situation worse. On the other hand, we should consider every means to end the violence," she said.

Pro-democracy lawmaker Lam Cheuk-ting stands up and protests
Pro-democracy lawmaker Lam Cheuk-ting stands up and protests shortly before Hong Kong's Chief Executive Carrie Lam leaves the chamber for the second time while trying to present her annual policy address at the Legislative Council in Hong Kong, Oct 16, 2019. (Photo: AFP/Anthony Wallace)

Millions have taken to the streets of Hong Kong, initially against a now-dropped bid by its leaders to allow extraditions to the authoritarian Chinese mainland.

The months-long movement has expanded into a broader push in the territory where activists say freedoms are being eroded by Beijing, contrary to a deal that outlined Hong Kong's 1997 return to China from British colonial rule.

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Hong Kong police monitor a group of protesters from the League of Social Democrats party
Hong Kong police monitor a group of protesters from the League of Social Democrats party outside the central government offices in Hong Kong, Oct 16, 2019. (Photo: AFP/Ed Jones)

Lam's speech comes after the US House of Representatives passed a Bill late Tuesday that aims to defend civil rights in Hong Kong and has drawn rare bipartisan support in a polarised Congress.

China, which has accused "external forces" of fuelling weeks of unrest in the global financial hub, expressed its "strong indignation" over the Bill and told Washington to "stop meddling".

The Hong Kong Rights and Democracy Act would end Hong Kong's special trading status with the United States unless the State Department certifies annually that city authorities are respecting human rights and the rule of law.

It also requires the US president to identify and sanction people who are responsible for the erosion of autonomy and serious abuses of human rights in Hong Kong.

The House also approved a related Bill to prohibit the export of certain non-lethal crowd control items such as tear gas to Hong Kong.

MORE: Our coverage of the Hong Kong protests

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Source: AFP/Reuters/zl/ad

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