Hong Kong’s Chief Executive CY Leung has said the need for economic growth outweighs calls for greater democracy, in his first annual policy address since last year’s pro-democracy protests.
Leung Chun-ying, commonly known as CY Leung, said Hong Kong would “degenerate into anarchy” if it gave in to demands for universal suffrage.
The speech was delayed as several pro-democracy lawmakers staged a noisy protest in the chamber calling for him to resign.
Hong Kong’s pro-democracy street protests came to an end in December.
The protesters had been on the streets since late September. They were demanding that the 2017 elections – Hong Kong’s first public vote for the leadership – should be held without interference from Beijing.
The protesters wanted CY Leung – who was himself elected by a committee of 1,200 people – to resign, but he refused.
While tens of thousands of people took part in the initial demonstrations which paralyzed parts of central Hong Kong, numbers had fallen to a few hundred – mostly students – by the time police and bailiffs dismantled the last camps in mid-December.
In his opening remarks of his speech, CY Leung said Hong Kong had to make a choice between “implementing universal suffrage and a standstill” in the economy.
While he recognized the aspirations of the student protesters, he said they did not fully understand Hong Kong’s laws, and that the territory had never been promised total political autonomy.
The reforms to take place in 2017 were “a big step forward for Hong Kong’s democratic development”, he said.
“As we pursue democracy, we should act in accordance with the law, or Hong Kong will degenerate into anarchy,” he warned.
Cy Leung also promised to generate more affordable housing in Hong Kong – a major issue in the wealthy but small territory – by announcing a new subsidized housing scheme.
His speech was delayed by several minutes after members of the pan-democratic bloc walked through parliament waving yellow umbrellas – a symbol of the protest movement – and banners calling for universal suffrage and for CY Leung to resign.
Pro-democracy lawmakers Raymond Chan and Albert Chan were removed from the chamber by security guards, while others walked out, leaving empty seats.
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