Hongkongers should ask whether a sit-in protest staged on Chater Road in Central after the annual July 1 march was "a waste of police resources", Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying said yesterday.
Leung also urged lawmakers during a question-and-answer session to think about why Legislative Council rules could be manipulated by radicals as "a tool to hijack" the city's social and economic development.
The remarks came despite anxiety in the pro-establishment camp over strained ties between the legislative and executive arms of government.
Earlier yesterday, about 20 pan-democratic legislators staged an unprecedented walkout to protest at Leung's "indifference" to the march. The legislature's president, Jasper Tsang Yok-sing, a pro-establishment heavyweight, urged Leung to reflect on the walkout and see how to serve Hongkongers better.
"I hope that lawmakers, the executive branch and the chief executive can all seriously [reflect on] the incident," Tsang said.
Watch: CY Leung: it’s a waste of police manpower to remove protesters
"The legislature and the executive branch should [demonstrate] utmost sincerity in finding a better way to serve the Hong Kong people by communicating and working together."
Chinese University political scientist Ivan Choy Chi-keung said Leung's indifference to public opinion was largely responsible for the worsening executive-legislative relationship and the current social divide.
Liberal Party leader James Tien Pei-chun also suggested that the administration make "concessions" when necessary, instead of merely asking Legco to support its policies.
Tien asked Leung in the Legco meeting whether he would consider quitting if the government's upcoming blueprint for the 2017 chief executive election failed to win Legco approval.
Leung ruled out the idea of his resignation, as well as the suggestion his ties with lawmakers were poor.
"You can see clearly today that pan-democrats are calling for genuine universal suffrage without screening - this is a constitutional issue, not an issue related to the relationship between the executive and legislative branch," he said.
Leung also praised the police's handling of the Chater Road sit-in, saying officers had been "professional" and had shown restraint. "We knew their demands about political development … Did they need to voice their demands through [a sit-in]? This process is a waste of police resources," he argued.
Police operations "are usually conducted completely in front of mass media cameras", he said.
However, reporters at the scene complained that officers had told them to move away from the protesters or face arrest.
Lester Shum, of the Federation of Students, said the way the police removed the protesters was "a mess".
Referring to the same protest, state-run newspaper Global Times warned in an editorial yesterday that Hong Kong faced becoming the next Ukraine or Thailand if it embraced a period of "political upheaval".