Legco expected to pass thanks motion for Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam’s policy address
She will become the third chief executive since 1997 handover to receive this, with her maiden policy blueprint the sixth to be recognised
For the first time in nine years, Hong Kong’s Legislative Council is expected to pass a motion of thanks for the chief executive’s policy address as a three-day debate kicked off on Wednesday.
The approval of city leader Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor’s maiden policy address will come amid political tensions following the ousting of six pan-democratic lawmakers over improper oaths of office. The saga has led to the dominance of the pro-establishment bloc in both the functional and geographical constituencies.
If lawmakers vote to pass the motion as expected on Friday, Lam will become the third chief executive to receive Legco’s recognition since the 1997 return of the city to Chinese rule. Her policy blueprint will be the sixth address since the handover to be recognised by legislators.
Lam’s predecessor Leung Chun-ying failed to get any thanks from lawmakers for his five policy addresses over his five-year term.
The last time Legco passed a motion thanking a chief executive was in 2008 when Donald Tsang Yam-kuen held the top post. There have been four chief executives including Lam, since 1997.
In her policy address, Lam steered clear of political hot potatoes and promised sweeteners to companies and middle-class residents, with new initiatives in housing and innovation.
Pro-establishment lawmakers largely appreciated the measures laid out in her policy address, with many highlighting the benefits of the proposed profits tax cut for the business sector.
Starry Lee Wai-king, chairwoman of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, said “one small flaw” of the policy address was that Lam had not touched upon how to safeguard the “one country, two systems” governing principle under which Hong Kong is guaranteed a high degree of autonomy.
But most pan-democrats said they would oppose the motion, although some had approved of the policy initiatives.
“The reason is that we think the government has failed to look into deep-rooted social and political conflicts and find a way to truly mend rifts,” Democratic Party leader Wu Chi-wai said, referring to Lam’s failure to commit to restarting the political reform process.
“This council urges the chief executive to make a pledge to Hong Kong people that she will expeditiously reactivate constitutional reform,” Wu said, tabling an amendment to the motion of thanks. He pressed for a chief executive election complying with international standards and free of political screening.
Civic Party leader Alvin Yeung Ngok-kiu echoed similar thoughts.
Yeung agreed that the policy address had shown Lam’s efforts to improve the livelihoods of Hongkongers, but he said the government had “no heart” in mending the social divide.
Addressing the diverse comments between both camps in Legco, Lam, at a business event on Wednesday night to give a speech, said she believed that “justice lies in the hearts of everyone”.
The three-day Legco debate is divided into five sessions with different policy themes, and the focus on Wednesday was on economic development.
Meetings were generally “peaceful” during the 11-hour session, contrasting with previous weeks where Legco descended into chaos. Pan-democrats had dragged out discussions to block the start of the debate on the controversial joint checkpoint for the cross-border high-speed rail link.
The motion on the checkpoint arrangement for the railway to Guangzhou, which was adjourned last week, is set to be tabled again next week.
The pan-democrats on Wednesday refused to reveal their tactics next week, but they extended an olive branch to the pro-establishment bloc by calling for communication over proposals from both sides to change the Legco rule book.
Both camps had filed a series of amendments to the rule book to Legco president Andrew Leung Kwan-yuen.