Chief executive’s policy address 2017

Parties make final appeals to Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam ahead of maiden policy address

Groups stage demonstrations to call for improvements to city’s housing situation and measures to ease pressure on the underprivileged

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 08 October, 2017, 7:14pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 08 October, 2017, 10:32pm

At least seven groups across the political spectrum made their last-ditch efforts on Sunday to urge Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor to announce new initiatives in her maiden policy address to improve the city’s housing supply and help underprivileged residents.

The demonstrations outside the government’s headquarters in Admiralty and Lam’s Government House residence in Central came three days before the chief executive is set to roll out her annual policy blueprint in the Legislative Council on Wednesday morning.

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Since taking office in July, Lam and her officials have indicated that her policy speech will be a comprehensive blueprint covering profit tax reforms, “starter homes” for first-time buyers, and initiatives to boost the innovation and technology sector.

But the Democratic Party, the largest pro-democracy party in Legco with seven lawmakers, said that was not enough to solve Hong Kong’s problems.

Gathering outside the government’s office compound with about 10 democrats, the party’s chairman Wu Chi-wai urged Lam to allow owners of subsidised housing to rent their property without paying a hefty premium to the government.

“The government has been lazy on a number of policy areas. We hope that it can be people-oriented in doing their job,” Wu said.

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He also said Lam should engage the public and relaunch the political reform process to achieve a popular ballot for the city’s leadership.

Separately, the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, the largest pro-establishment party in Legco with 12 legislators, also gathered to set out their demands.

DAB core member Vincent Cheng Wing-shun, a district councillor from one of Hong Kong’s poorest communities of Sham Shui Po, said apart from opening up subsidised homes for rent, the government needed to relaunch a subsidy programme for landlords to refurnish old residential buildings.

“Lam’s administration should also provide more support for elderly people who live in their own homes,” Cheng said.

Lam had previously noted that the elderly care and social welfare sectors are facing a serious manpower shortage, and her administration might need to consider importing foreign labour to ease the problems.

However, about 170 members of the Beijing-friendly Federation of Trade Unions, led by chairman Stanley Ng Chau-pei, gathered outside the government’s headquarters and warned Lam against doing so.

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Ng said: “Many privately-run elderly care homes have been offering low salaries, such as only HK$12,000 per month ... It is no surprise that they could not hire enough people.

“When more than 120,000 people are unemployed ... it’s unfair to import labour arbitrarily.”

Kowloon West New Dynamic, a group led by pro-establishment lawmaker Priscila Leung Mei-fun, also gathered there and called for the government to increase housing supply.

Separately, the pro-democracy Confederation of Trade Unions marched to Lam’s Government House residence in Central, and urged Lam to offer subsidies for part-time students studying in self-financed tertiary institutions.

Separately, about 30 people from ethnic minorities and activists gathered outside the government’s offices in the afternoon to call for equal opportunities.

They said while many of them were born in Hong Kong, many kindergartens or schools had refused to take their children. Those who struggled to speak Cantonese also faced difficulties in finding jobs or obtaining public health care services, they said.

Among these groups, the only one who had the chance to meet Lam personally was a group of patients suffering from spinal muscular atrophy, a rare genetic disorder that destroys their ability to walk and breath.