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Carrie Lam aborts speech



Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam

Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam has been forced to abandon her annual policy address after pro-democracy MPs jeered as she began speaking, causing an unprecedented cancellation of such a speech.

Ms Lam, who has rejected calls to stand down, was set to announce a raft of property initiatives, in a bid to restore confidence in her administration after more than four months of anti-government protests.

• Protests in Hong Kong have been raging for four months now
• Ms Lam has rejected calls to stand down, despite there being no end in sight to the unrest
• MPs wore masks of Chinese President Xi Jinping as they called for Lam to resolve the crisis

Ms Lam had already started delivering the speech when MPs chanting “five demands, not one less” forced an interruption. She left the Legislative Council chamber and came back a few minutes later to try again, only to be interrupted one more time, prompting her to leave again.

The expression has become one of the movement’s rallying calls, referring to protesters’ five main demands, which include universal suffrage and an independent inquiry into what they say has been excessive force by police in dealing with demonstrations.

Some of the MPs wore masks of Chinese President Xi Jinping inside the chamber as they held up posters calling for the five demands to be met.

At an impromptu news conference outside the chamber, the MPs then played a recording on a small loudspeaker that they said was the sounds of police tear-gassing protesters and of protesters screaming.

Ms Lam later gave her speech via video link to avoid the jeering MPs and made a plea for peace.

She described the current situation as a “major crisis” before saying: “People are asking: Will Hong Kong return to normal?”

Ms Lam then appealed for Hong Kong’s 7.5 million citizens to “cherish the city”, warning that “continued violence and spread of hatred will erode the core values of Hong Kong”.

The Hong Kong leader then indicated her Government would drastically increase the number of housing projects and accelerate the sale of public housing schemes.

Anger over sky-high property prices, especially among the young, is widely believed to have fueled the at-times violent protests that have rocked the city for months. Ms Lam said about 700 hectares of private land in the city’s New Territories would be brought back into public use under what is know as a land resumption ordinance.

Ms Lam was speaking hours after the US House of Representatives passed three pieces of legislation related to the Hong Kong protests, drawing a swift rebuke from Beijing, which accused the lawmakers of “sinister intentions” of undermining stability in the Asian financial hub.

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