(HONG KONG) — All eyes were on Hong Kong’s Legislative Council Wednesday morning where the island’s embattled leader Carrie Lam was scheduled to deliver her annual policy speech.
Outside Hong Kong’s Government complex, armed riot police stood guard though very few protesters could be seen from inside. But as Lam entered the chamber of the cities council, the only thing that could be heard were chants of “five demands, not one less” being shouted from pro-democracy lawmakers.
The policy speech, which was expected to focus on land supply, housing and spending on livelihood matters in hopes of cooling down public anger, was quickly cut short as Lam was escorted out of the chamber minutes after arriving.
Not willing to go down without a fight, Lam returned 20 minutes later in a second attempt. That too proved to be infeasible as opposition lawmakers continued to shout, blare protest sounds from a portable speaker and project the “five demands not one less” on the wall behind the chief executive.
Some lawmakers were seen wearing paper masks of China’s President Xi Jinping — a not so subtle nod to the newly enacted ban on wearing face masks.
Yet despite her best effort to speak, Lam’s voice was drowned out and, for a second time in less than 30 minutes, she was escorted out of the chamber flanked by security, this time being heckled all the way to the exit door.
The meeting was quickly adjourned and Lam, rather than attempting a third time to deliver her speech on the chamber floor per tradition, opted to issue it via a pre-recorded video.
In the video, Lam spoke of the current unrest rocking Hong Kong saying, “While we respect different opinions and understand people’s enthusiasm in fighting for justice and rights, I believe our society will agree that continued violence and spread of hatred would erode the core values of Hong Kong, disrupt social peace and undermine the excellent system that took years of efforts to build.”
Lam emphasized citizens’ rights to protest, however she made it clear that there was a red line not to be crossed saying “any act that advocates Hong Kong’s independence and threaten the country’s sovereignty, security and development interests will not be tolerated.”
The protest movement, which began in early June and has since grown increasingly violent, started as a response to a proposed extradition bill that would have allowed suspected criminals in Hong Kong to be sent to mainland China for trial. Lam has since withdrawn that bill but protests continue.
In the closing of her video address, Lam said law and social order needs to be restored as “early as possible” so that Hong Kong “will soon be able to emerge from the storm and embrace the rainbow.”
In a press conference Wednesday afternoon, Lam said she would once again listen to the concerns of Hong Kong citizens in a public forum. This time however, she will interact with netizens through Facebook on Thursday night.
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