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Hong Kong Policy Address 2019: Democrats blast Lam’s ‘irrelevant’ speech as pro-Beijing camp offer lukewarm welcome

Chief Executive Carrie Lam’s policy address on Wednesday was met with scorn from Hong Kong’s pro-democracy lawmakers, who said she failed to tackle the political crisis at its root.

The policy address highlighted four main areas: housing, land supply, livelihood issues and economic development. Lam delivered her speech via a televised message, after democrats twice interrupted her from reading it aloud at the legislature.

democrats policy address

Pro-democracy lawmakers respond to the Policy Address. Photo: Holmes Chan/HKFP.

Tanya Chan, Civic Party lawmaker and convenor of the pro-democracy camp, called on Lam to resign as she had become the “common enemy of the Hong Kong people.”

“Lam’s approval rating is at a record low… it is the wish of most Hongkongers that she resign,” Chan said. “In the hearts and minds of Hongkongers, Carrie Lam exists in the past tense. Nobody even bothers to surround her [in protest] anymore.”

Democrats also criticised Lam’s decision to thank the police in her speech, saying that she was disconnected from the public’s grievances against law enforcement.

Carrie Lam 2019 Policy Address October 16

Photo: inmediahk.net.

Lam’s speech was “irrelevant” because she offered no political solutions, the lawmakers added. “We are facing a political problem, and it cannot be solved through economic, housing and welfare measures,” said Ray Chan from People Power.

“If you ask the young people who are protesting, whether they will stop once you give them housing, they will tell you it is irrelevant.”

More protests planned

Protest organisers the Civil Human Rights Front also rejected Lam’s speech, saying it did not respond directly to the five core demands from the protesters. The demands include amnesty for arrested protesters, reforming the police force, and genuine universal suffrage.

“We believe that it is highly unrealistic for her to quell public grievances towards police brutality by only pushing out minor repairs to society within her policy address,” the group said in a statement.

october 6 protest

Protest march in October. File photo: May James/HKFP.

The Front has applied to the police for permission to organise a mass protest in Tsim Sha Tsui on Sunday.

Lam is expected to return to the legislature on Thursday morning for a question-and-answer session with lawmakers, though democrats have hinted at further protests.

Pro-Beijing camp unimpressed

Meanwhile, pro-Beijing lawmakers criticised the policy address for not taking decisive steps to quell the ongoing protest movement: “Our view is that the policy address follows a well-worn path and is powerless in breaking the deadlock,” said DAB party leader Starry Lee. “Facing the chaos in society today, the public hopes to hear from [Lam on] how to bring things back to normal.”

The public does not feel that Lam can solve the deep-rooted issues facing Hong Kong, and the policy address did not offer concrete proposals to change that perception, Lee added.

regina ip

New People’s Party leader Regina Ip. Photo: inmediahk.net.

New People’s Party leader Regina Ip took a softer tone, saying that Lam compiled the policy blueprint under difficult circumstances, and that the results were “valuable.”

However, Ip and her party colleague Eunice Yung said that the policy address provided no help to the middle-class.

The announcements were met with a more enthusiastic response in the business sector, with the Hong Kong General Chamber of Commerce (HKGCC) welcoming the new policies.

“Housing is a crucial issue that Hong Kong needs to resolve. The Chief Executive’s plan to provide 10,000 units within the next three years should help alleviate the shortages,” said HKGCC Chairman Aron Harilela.

public housing

A public housing estate under construction in Cheung Sha Wan. File Photo: HKFP/Ellie Ng.

“The combination of expediting the sale of affordable public housing units under the Home Ownership Scheme, building additional starter homes, and raising the loan-to-value mortgage threshold, should also allow more first-time home buyers to secure their own home quickly. ”

The business chamber added: “We recognise the efforts the Government is making to resolve the grave challenges facing Hong Kong. We hope these measures will start paving a path for recovery and reconciliation.”

Constitutional issue

On Wednesday, Lam’s abortive attempt to deliver the policy address at the legislature also raised questions over whether she fulfilled her constitutional duty.

October 16 LegCo policy address protest

Pro-democracy lawmaker Au Nok-hin wears a Chinese President Xi Jinping mask in the Chamber of the Legislative Council Complex during Chief Executive Carrie Lam’s 2019 Policy Address on October 16. Photo: inmediahk.net.

Article 73(4) of the Basic Law states that one of the powers and functions of the Legislative Council is to “receive and debate the policy addresses of the chief executive.”

Lam told reporters that she tried her best to fulfil her constitutional duty, as she had already gone to the legislature in person: “[I] was only able to say a few sentences, but in terms of fulfilling the requirement under the Basic Law… this purpose has already been achieved,” she said.

Legislative Council President Andrew Leung did not give his own view, only saying that the question of constitutionality should be left to the courts.

Andrew Leung

Legislative Council President Andrew Leung. Photo: Holmes Chan/HKFP.

As for lawmakers’ behaviour, Leung said that the situation was out of his hands: “I tried to explain the constitutional duty under the Basic Law for lawmakers to receive the policy address. It is up to them to behave in an orderly manner so that the chief executive can deliver her speech.”

Asked if the legislature will make any special arrangements for Thursday, Leung said that the meeting will be adjourned if chaotic scenes reappear.


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Hong Kong Policy Address 2019: Democrats blast Lam's 'irrelevant' speech as pro-Beijing camp offer lukewarm welcome