Hong Kong council session adjourns as opponents heckle Lam

Chaos erupted for second day as chief executive’s critics were dragged one by one from the legislative chamber.

Hong Kong
Lam has been criticised by opponents and allies for offering little in the way of a political solution to the crisis [Umit Bektas/Reuters]

Hong Kong, China – For the second day in a row, Hong Kong‘s legislature had to adjourn its meeting on Thursday after pro-democracy legislators repeatedly heckled the city’s embattled leader Carrie Lam.

“Carrie Lam, step down!” and “Punish police brutality”, Lam’s political opponents chanted for a second day. 

The legislature president ordered opposition legislators to leave one by one.

The abrupt adjournment came just a day after Lam was forced to suspend her annual policy address inside the Legislative Council and later delivered it by video link.

“When street battles are raging all summer long, it can’t be business as usual in here,” said legislator Raymond Chan, among the first to be dragged out of the chamber on Thursday morning.

“The government is responsible for all the unrest, yet no one has been held accountable.”

Since early June, Hong Kong has been engulfed in anti-government protests, triggered by a now-dropped extradition bill that would have allowed accused individuals to be sent to mainland China for trial.

Public anger has been fuelled by the government’s refusal to address protesters’ other demands.

In addition to the bill’s withdrawal, protesters have called for an independent inquiry into alleged police brutality in suppressing the protests, amnesty for the nearly 500 people charged with offences stemming from their participation in the protests, and a retraction of police claims that protesters are guilty of rioting.

Although Chan and his fellow democrats belong to the minority in the Legislative Council, polls released on Monday show they are with a solid majority of Hong Kong’s populace.

‘Someone has to step down’

Surveys conducted by the Chinese University of Hong Kong indicated nearly three out of four respondents think Lam should go.

“It isn’t one of the stated demands, but it’s implied: Someone has to step down,” Francis Lee, a journalism professor who supervised the surveys, told Al Jazeera.

Lee said the poll figures are telling: Lam has lost the support of even pro-government parties as they see her as incapable of settling the political maelstrom.

Backed by China’s central government and elected by an exclusive committee of 1,200 mostly pro-Beijing loyalists, Lam has steadfastly resisted calls to resign despite historically low approval ratings.

Wednesday’s annual policy speech – the third in her five-year term – was billed as an attempt to win hearts and minds after four months of pro-democracy protests.

But it drew criticism from supporters and opponents for failing to offer a substantive political solution. 

Lam instead focused on the economy, promising to increase house and land options in the city, which has one of the least affordable property markets in the world. She also announced a number of subsidies. 

Renewed focus

Lam’s speech kicked off the annual session after the Legislative Council opened its doors for the first time since the building was vandalised by hundreds of masked protesters three months ago. It had been forced into an early summer recess by the vandalism. 

With the start of the legislative year, Lee said that the leaderless protest movement may gain a renewed focus, especially since Beijing and Hong Kong authorities are still counting on the protesters to burn out and quit.

Hong Kong leader Lam’s policy speech disrupted (1:07)

Some legislators from the pan-democratic camp have thrust themselves into the movement, at times shielding the protesters from advancing riot police.

But it remains to be seen if pan-democrats’ support for movement will endure as the protests drag on.

“The dynamic between the protesters and the pan-democrats can be tricky. There’s a certain degree of mistrust but they know they’re allies,” said Lee. “If they can collaborate with each other, they’ll bring more pressure to bear on the government.”

Chan said he and his colleagues are committed to waging a non-cooperation campaign inside the halls of the Legislative Council.

“We can’t support this government any longer,” Chan told Al Jazeera. “Lam thought she can use public dollars to buy public support, but public opinion is loud and clear.”

Source: Al Jazeera


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