Hong Kong leader gives speech by video link after protest

HONG KONG, Erin Hale (dpa)- Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam was forced to give her first policy address of the year by video link on Wednesday after a scheduled speech before the legislature was disrupted by pro-democracy lawmakers.
Lam said Hong Kong remained a government committed to resolving the city's ongoing protest movement, in its fifth month, and said residents needed to "set aside their differences."

She said Hong Kong was facing its most "formidable challenge" since the former British colony returned to Chinese sovereignty in 1997.
Lam spent much of her speech addressing the long-standing issue of affordable housing, with promises of more public housing and subsidized flats in one of the world's most expensive housing markets. 
Her announcements included plans to push forward with her controversial "Lantau Tomorrow" plan to reclaim 1,000 hectares of land to build artificial islands to increase the city's public housing supply.
The city's government has been accused of artificially inflating the housing market by allowing private developers to maintain land banks of unused sites. 
Pro-establishment lawmakers have previously linked the lack of affordable housing to the recent anti-government protest movement, as the ability to purchase or even rent a private flat remains a major challenge for most young people. 
In her speech, Lam also discussed at length poverty alleviation efforts as well as initiatives such as public transport subsidies and more public primary health care centres. 
She said the city had slid into a "technical" recession since protests began in June, and would likely see a nominal growth for the rest of the year of 0 to 2 per cent. 
Lam held her speech by live video link after pro-democracy protesters prevented her from speaking inside the city's legislature on Wednesday morning.
Shortly before she was due to speak, pro-democracy lawmakers entered the legislative chamber and chanted slogans from the summer's protest movement like "Liberate Hong Kong, the revolution of our times." 
They also projected the slogan "Five demands, not one less" onto the walls of the chamber as some legislators stood on tables and others played videos of protesters screaming at demonstrations. 
Disruptions resumed as Lam attempted to speak, forcing her to leave the room and adjourn the session. 
Following the protest, democratic legislators held an impromptu press conference where they accused Lam of being unfit to govern Hong Kong and hit out at her for giving the address by video.
Legislator Alvin Yeung said that Lam was "unfit to govern" while fellow legislator Au Nok Hin said  the video address looks like "either an Al-Qaeda address or a government in exile which cannot deliver its policy in the parliament."
Pro-democracy lawmakers have been known to stage similar demonstrations in the past to disrupt the semi-democratic legislature, where they hold a minority of seats.
In anticipation of protests, security was high at the legislature on Wednesday, where water-filled barriers extended around the complex and multiple security checks were in place to enter the building.
The legislature recently underwent 40 million Hong Kong dollars (5 million US dollars) in repairs after anti-government protesters broke into the building on July 1 and vandalized the interior, according to the South China Morning Post.
Protests began in Hong Kong on June 9 against a legislative bill that would have allowed for residents to stand trial in mainland China.
They have since escalated into a massive anti-government movement with renewed calls for democratic reform.

Thursday, October 17th 2019
Erin Hale (dpa)

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