Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam was criticized by both pro-establishment and pro-democracy lawmakers during a meeting on Thursday over the government’s failure to launch relief measures before the District Council election and for not launching an independent investigation into alleged police brutality.
The 10 new measures launched recently by the government to improve people’s livelihoods were indeed well received, but they should have been unveiled before the District Council election on November 24 last year, Jonathan Ho Kai-ming, a Legislative Council member of the Hong Kong Federation of Trade Unions, told Lam in a LegCo meeting on Thursday.
Ho said if the measures had been launched earlier, the public would not have been less grievous.
Eunice Yung Hoi-yan, a New People’s Party legislator, asked Lam whether she and her cabinet would voluntarily accept a salary cut or some officials would resign to ease the social unrest. Yung said Lam should show her commitment and take responsibility for having caused a huge political dispute over the past several months.
Ann Chiang Lai-wan, a Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong lawmaker, said a lot of young people were worried that their way of living would change as the Basic Law only guaranteed that Hong Kong would stay unchanged for 50 years.
Chiang asked Lam whether Hong Kong would still have “one country, two systems” after 2047 or it would become “one country one system.”
On Monday, the Hong Kong government announced 10 measures, including an increase in the number of statutory holidays and the expansion of the public transport fare subsidy scheme. All the new measures would result in an additional HK$10 billion (US$1.29 billion) of current expenses per year.
Now, more than one million Hong Kong workers, or about 30% of the total workforce, mainly blue-collar workers and foreign domestic workers, can only enjoy 12 statutory holidays, which exclude five public holidays at Easter, on Buddha’s birthday and Christmas.
The government now suggests giving all workers, no matter blue- or white-collar ones, 17 public holidays annually.
Lam said when she was preparing for her Policy Address last October, she mainly focused on reviewing Hong Kong’s housing and land supply policies. She said she had received a lot of good suggestions about how to improve people’s livelihoods at that time, but it took some time for the government to consider them.
She said as the Chief Executive, she had to be responsible for the extradition saga. She added that she would continue to commit and lead the government and 180,000 civil servants to find a way out for Hong Kong amid the social unrest and the unfavorable economic environment.
Commenting on the “one country, two systems,” she said the principle would continue to work steadily and not change after 2047. She called on the public to treasure “one country, two systems” by safeguarding the “one country” and respecting the difference of the “two systems.”
She also said the young people who were born after the 1997 handover should try not to misunderstand and undermine the “one country, two systems” principle and Basic Law. She warned that any bad consequence would be caused by these youngsters.
Alvin Yeung Ngok-kiu, a Civic Party lawmaker, slammed Lam for undermining the “one country, two systems” by supporting police brutality and refusing to meet the anti-extradition protesters’ demands.
Yeung also mocked Lam for indirectly helping Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen win the election on January 11 as a lot of Taiwanese had realized that the “one country, two systems” principle was not trustworthy due to the Hong Kong experience.
Andrew Wan Siu-kin said a lot of Hong Kong police had abused their power by unreasonably arresting people on the streets and using violence on them.
Lam said she would not accept the allegation that there had been police brutality in Hong Kong over the past seven months. She said a lot of people tried to hurt the police’s law enforcement ability by defaming them. She urged the public to support the police.
Her speech received strong opposition from the pro-democracy camp. A total of 12 pan-democrats, together with a pro-Beijing lawmaker, were ordered to leave the chamber during the one-and-a-half-hour meeting.
I knew that if I failed I wouldn’t regret that, but I knew the one thing I might regret is not trying.