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Legislative Council president Andrew Leung Kwan-yuen meets the media as Legco chamber re-opens after repair work. The wall pictured in the background, that used to hung Legco presidents' portraits is still vacant. 08OCT19 SCMP/ Nora Tam

Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam may not deliver annual speech in person as violent protests put Legislative Council on high alert

  • Chief executive expected to deliver her policy address on October 16, but says she may not do it in person amid worsening protests
  • The government spent HK$40 million repairing damage to the legislature caused by protesters in July
Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor may not deliver her annual policy address in person next Wednesday as the city’s Legislative Council remains on high alert amid violence between police and anti-government protesters.

The city’s leader is expected to make her annual policy address on October 16 in Legco, but said on Tuesday it was not up to her whether she delivered it in person. It depended on “what happens outside the building”, she said.

Lam said the policy address would not be “the usual type” because she and other officials have been occupied by the ongoing protests.

Legco president Andrew Leung Kwan-yuen, meanwhile, urged calm ahead of Lam’s speech, especially after the government spent HK$40 million repairing damage caused by protesters in July.

“We hope that the meeting can be calmer and smoother, and that people can give us a chance to operate,” Leung said.

“We have, in the backlog, a lot of bills and funding proposals that matter to people’s livelihoods … I hope people can calm down so that Hong Kong can come out from the depths.”

Legco chamber re-opens after repairs to damage caused by protesters in July. Photo: Nora Tam

On July 1, hours after Hong Kong marked the 22nd anniversary of its handover from British to Chinese rule, hundreds of masked protesters stormed the Legco complex, vandalised its chamber, sprayed black paint on the city’s emblem, smashed dozens of glass panes, as well as damaged electronic systems and portraits of current and former presidents.

Repairs are mostly completed, except for portraits and glass panes on the building’s exterior.

The Legco Commission, chaired by Leung, met in the building on Tuesday – the first time since repair work began.

After the meeting, Leung conceded that the government did not have a contingency plan in the event that the legislature was again stormed by protesters before Lam’s speech next week.

Asked if Lam would deliver her policy address elsewhere if Legco was again vandalised or besieged in the coming week, Leung said: “If lawmakers cannot come in and out the building freely and safely, we cannot hold any meeting … We don’t have a contingency plan.”

Hong Kong anti-mask law charges reach 16 following weekend of violent protests

On Friday, Lam invoked the colonial-era Emergency Regulations Ordinance to impose a ban on the wearing of masks in public assemblies, provoking a weekend of violent clashes between police and protesters.

Pan-democrats criticised Lam for bypassing and disrespecting the legislature, as lawmakers could only scrutinise the new law through the so-called “negative vetting” rule.

Asked if legislators would be able to amend the ban through “negative vetting”, Leung said Legco’s legal service division was looking into the matter.

In reference to the ordinance, which was last used in 1967, he added: “It has not been used for a long time, so the legal issues need to be clarified.”

Legco chamber re-opens after repairs to damage caused by protesters in July. Photo: Nora Tam

Dismissing pan-democrats’ accusations that the government was circumventing the legislature, Leung said more than 100 legislations were enacted through “negative vetting” each year.

The legislature would issue an amber alert on Wednesday and Thursday next week, the president said, meaning all visitors would have to pass security checks to observe meetings. Other public services, including guided tours, would be suspended. Legco’s two-tier alert system states that the complex must close down if the higher red-level alert is issued.  

Leung noted that Lam’s policy address would mark the start of the last year of lawmakers’ four-year term.

Pro-establishment lawmaker Gary Chan Hak-kan, who sits on the Legco Commission, said the meeting next Wednesday could be cancelled if a red alert were issued.

Chan said apart from the protesters turnout, Leung and the Legco Commission would also consider other factors.

“We have to see what the protesters’ emotions and actions are like,” he said, adding a meeting would only go ahead if the safety of staff inside the building was ensured.

In recent years, the chief executive would attend a televised forum in the evening after delivering the policy address, followed by a radio forum the next morning. Both events would be held at the government headquarters.

A government spokesman said there would be no such forums this year, after considering the uncertainties surrounding the complex.

A source also revealed that if Lam could not deliver her speech in the legislature, she would announce it on a live feed, or through a taped video. Depending on the situation, the press conference for the policy address would also be held on October 16.

This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as: Lam may not deliver policy address from Legco complex